Billy McFarland was already a familiar face when he popped up again this year as one of the frauds that gained the so-called ‘summer of scam’ its name. His brainchild, Fyre Festival, fell through in a major way in 2017, leaving many guests stranded on a desert island. The luxury accommodation they had been looking forward to actually turned out to be some half-built disaster tents, and for food they were given stale cheese sandwiches under a gazebo (not what you’d expect after shelling out $1,500 for a ticket, minimum). Oh, and the acts pulled out, too.
But McFarland’s antics didn’t stop there; after being arrested and pleading guilty to defrauding over 80 investors and a ticket broker out of over $26 million, he was released on bail, and promptly began selling fake tickets to events like the Met Gala and Burning Man through his other company, NYC VIP Access. He was arrested again, for the latter offense, in June this year.
Now the “serial fraudster” – as one US District Judge christened him – is finally being brought to some kind of justice. For all his crimes, Judge Buchwald sentenced McFarland to six years in prison last week (which seems pretty lenient, given that the Fyre Festival-related charges alone allow for a prison term up to two decades). McFarland has also agreed to a $26 million forfeiture order, which would transfer his monetary assets to the government.
“The remorse I feel is crushing,” he told the court on Thursday. “I’ve lived every day with the weight of knowing that I literally destroyed the lives of my friends and family.” This does sound pretty similar to what he said after the Fyre Festival sentencing, though, and that didn’t stop him selling $100,000 of fake tickets straight after.