Billy McFarland says he was ‘wrong’ to put on Fyre Festival in first TV interview since prison release

‘I was so driven by this desperate desire to prove people right,’ fraudster said

Isobel Lewis
Friday 04 November 2022 14:43 GMT
Fyre Festival founder admits he was 'wrong' in first interview since being released from prison

Billy McFarland has admitted that he was “wrong” to go ahead with Fyre Festival in his first interview since being released from prison.

McFarland was at the centre of a high-profile scandal in which ticketholders were lured to a “luxury music festival” held on Pablo Escobar’s former private island in the Bahamas, with Blink-182, Migos and Disclosure booked to perform.

However, the event was a notorious disaster, collapsing in chaos after issues with food, security and accommodation arose. It was the subject of two documentaries that aired on Hulu and Netflix in 2019.

In 2018, McFarland – a repeated scammer – pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud. He was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay back $26m (£23m) to investors, but was released early in March 2022.

On Friday (4 November), McFarland made his return to our screens as he sat down with Good Morning America for his first TV appearance following his release.

On the brink of tears, McFarland said he had been driven by a need to “prove himself”.

“I was wrong,” McFarland said. “I messed up. I was so driven by this desperate desire to prove people right. I had these early investors, backers, employees, and I think I was just so insecure that I thought the only way to prove myself to them was to succeed and that led me down this terrible path of bad decisions.”

He continued: “I need to apologise and that is the first and last thing that needs to be done. I let people down.

“What I told investors was wrong and I think the hardest thing for me is the trust that I violated... whether it was friends, investors, or employees, people gave up a lot to try and make this happen. How do I call them now and look them in the eye when I let them down? I just really should have canceled everything and stopped lying.”

Ja Rule and McFarland in Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary

He added: “I should have listened. There is no excuse.”

However, he did not make any suggestion about how he would pay back the $26m.

After leaving prison, McFarland was relocated to a half-way house. His time under house arrest ended in September.

In October, he teased a new business venture on TikTok and YouTube, suggesting it would be a new event where “everyone’s invited”. The nature of the venture is expected to be unveiled this month.

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