Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland pled guilty to wire fraud charges in a Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. The 26-year-old agreed to a plea deal that will likely result in him spending up to 10 years in prison for defrauding investors.
“I grossly underestimated the resources that would be necessary to hold an event of this magnitude”, McFarland said, according to the Associated Press. “In an attempt to raise what I thought were needed funds, I lied to investors about various aspects of Fyre Media and my personal finances. Those lies included false documents and information.”
McFarland entered the public consciousness in April 2017 following the highly publicized dumpster fire that was Fyre Festival. Billed as an Instagrammable haven where the nouveau riche could mingle with influencers, DJs, and celebrities, the Bahamas music festival quickly devolved from a millennial fever dream to a nightmare camping trip.
Attendees were promised gourmet meals, luxury accommodations and Blink-182; they received cheese sandwiches, slept in FEMA tents, and Blink-182 never showed up. All the while, McFarland had been raking in money from investors and ticket holders.
“William McFarland tendered fake documents to induce investors and a ticket vendor to put more than $26 million into his company and the disastrous Fyre Festival,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said, per AP. “He now awaits sentencing for his admitted swindle.”
Remember How This All Started Because Of An App
The failed entrepreneur created Fyre Festival as a promotional gimmick to advertise an app his company Fyre Media was creating. The app was intended to help connect people with artists and venues so they could book their own concerts.
Through a combination of sleek advertising, exorbitant promises, and falsified documents, McFarland convinced investors to toss money into Fyre Media and the Fyre Festival. He was arrested in June 2017 for wire fraud charges, telling investors that his company had earned millions of dollars from booking concert performers in the past year, and providing fraudulent documents as evidence of his success.
Prosecutors said Fyre Media had actually taken in around $60,000. Fyre Media, which has since filed for bankruptcy, was described on Crunchbase in the most now-ironic terms: “Fyre is an on demand service that makes booking the most influential celebrities seamless and transparent,” the description reads.
Unfortunately for McFarland, the “let’s just do it and be legends, man” ethos didn’t work out the way he planned.
McFarland’s sentencing hearing is set for June 21.