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The Fyre Festival on the Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas was supposed to be the music concert event of a lifetime for concertgoers. But now one of the creators of the poorly executed event might spend a significant portion of his lifetime behind bars. On Friday, police arrested Billy McFarland, the 26-year-old who partnered with Ja Rule to put on the catastrophic event. He was released on $300,000 bond and now faces time in court to face allegations from federal prosecutors who say McFarland misrepresented the financial status of his business, Fyre Media, to defraud his investors in a grand wire fraud scheme. If the court convicts McFarland, he could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
According to the prosecutors, Billy McFarland misled the event's investors by presenting false documents to inflate his net worth and company's value. A judge issued an arrest warrant after receiving an FBI report outlining investigator Brandon Racz's findings. Racz presented possible evidence that McFarland inflated his revenue from May 2016 to April 2017 to obtain money from investors. Variety reports McFarland claimed the company internally secured bookings of artists in the "tens of millions of dollars" range; however, Racz said McFarland made about $60,000 from about 60 bookings. Moreover, Racz discovered that McFarland overstated his net worth. McFarland supposedly said he was owned $2.56 million in stock holdings, but Racz said the value was closer to $1,500. The lead prosecutor, New York City-based U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, released a statement and said,
McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company, and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival. Thanks to the investigative efforts of the FBI, McFarland will now have to answer for his crimes.
Reports suggest Fyre Festival patrons shelled out up to $100,000 for tickets to the event, which was supposed to be a luxurious, star-studded music festival set in paradise. Acts like Disclosure, Blink 182, and Migos were scheduled to play at the event when patrons bought their tickets, and the description made the event sound like patrons would enjoy upscale glamping and fine dining. Supermodels like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner promoted the event, too. However, the organization of the event was such a trainwreck that all of the performers pulled out at the last minute, and the celebrity promoters issued apologies. Patrons who managed to get to the island found a disheveled campground with small tents, cheese sandwiches, sewage issues, and no music shows. Plus, evacuating the premises was complicated, and some people ended up stranded there for days.
Right now, Ja Rule might not face the same legal trouble as Billy McFarland. His attorney said he had not been arrested and clarified,
There is no deal for Mr. Atkins to cut as I do not perceive him to have any potential criminal exposure. He is saddened by the arrest of Mr. McFarland as he believed and believes in him.
The Fyre Festival fiasco was not the first failed venture for which Billy McFarland caught flack, and the Better Business Bureau had received previous complaints about him. So, it will be interesting to see what happens next.