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Fyre Festival founder facing federal fraud charges

Billy McFarland 'truly put on a show, misrepresenting the financial status of his businesses in order to rake in lucrative investment deals', according to charges

Greg Wilford
Saturday 01 July 2017 15:51 BST
Fyre Festival organiser William ‘Billy’ McFarland
Fyre Festival organiser William ‘Billy’ McFarland (Fox)

The promoter behind a “disastrous” failed music festival that was set to bring rockers Blink-182 and hip hop trio Migos to the Bahamas has been arrested and charged with fraud.

William “Billy” McFarland, 25, defrauded at least two investors who gave about $1.2million (£910,000) to help him stage the Fyre Festival in the Exumas islands, according to charges.

Promotional video for Fyre Festival

The entrepreneur, who co-founded entertainment business Fyre Media, is also accused of showing one investor false documents, claiming he had $2.5million in stocks when he really had less than $1,500 during his bid to raise funds for the project.

Music fans paid up to $12,000 to go to the Fyre Festival, which was billed as a "life-changing" experience bringing celebrities and models including Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid together to see some of the best-known artists in the world.

But when they arrived in the Bahamas in April they had to use half-built disaster relief tents for shelter and make do with short supplies of food, water and electricity while staying among mountains of rubbish.

The Fyre Festival was eventually cancelled altogether after headliners including Blink-182 pulled out.

It became the focus of a federal investigation and several lawsuits.

On Friday Mr McFarland was arrested in New York and charged with “wire fraud, in connection with a scheme to defraud investors”.

Fyre Festival attendees locked in airport 'for their own safety'

Manhattan US Attorney Joon Kim said: “As alleged, William McFarland promised a ‘life changing' music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster.

“McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival.”

Mr McFarland is due to enter a plea to the charge in front of a US Magistrate Judge on Saturday.

The defendant promoted the Fyre Festival with hip hop star Ja Rule, and they together face a separate $100million class action lawsuit over claims they put music fans in danger, according to CNN.

According to the criminal charge against Mr McFarland, he “perpetrated a scheme to defraud, inducing at least two individuals to invest approximately $1.2 million dollars in Fyre Media and an associated entity based on misrepresentations about Fyre Media’s revenue and income”.

The Fyre Media CEO also claimed to be earning millions of dollars of revenue from thousands of artist bookings between July 2016 to April, when the company actually earned less than $60,000, it is said.

“In order to drive the success of both entities, as alleged, McFarland truly put on a show, misrepresenting the financial status of his businesses in order to rake in lucrative investment deals,” said William F. Sweeney Jr, assistant director of the US Attorney's office in Manhattan.

“In the end, the very public failure of the Fyre Festival signaled that something just wasn't right, as we allege in detail today.”

Mr McFarland is expected to be presented before a US Magistrate to face charges later today.


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