The festival from hell has resulted in its organizer going to jail. The 2017 Fyre Festival in the Bahamas was the ultimate example of everything that could go wrong with a music event actually going much, much worse — and now Billy McFarland, its promoter, has been sentenced to six years in prison.
The sentence was pronounced by a federal judge in Manhattan Thursday. Attorneys for McFarland, 26, had asked for leniency after he pleaded guilty to separate charges of defrauding investors and running a bogus ticket-selling business earlier this year, saying their client suffered untreated mental illness involving delusions about “fame and fortune.” Prosecutors had argued for a longer sentence, calling McFarland “the consummate con artist” in a sentencing memorandum, and described him as remorseless, although defense attorneys said he had “unequivocally acknowledged” committing fraud.
Judge Naomi Buchwald presided over the case in the U.S. Southern District Court and referred to McFarland as “a serial fraudster” in sentencing.
No musical performances ever took place at the would-be festival in April of last year, even after passholders who’d paid from $1,200 into six figures arrived at the site on the island of Great Exuma and found themselves stranded. What little infrastructure they found before making their escapes was the opposite of the promised “first-class culinary experiences and luxury atmosphere.” Co-founder Ja Rule, who was doing an unrelated performance in the U.S. at the time, apologetically tweeted in the midst of the disaster that he was “heartbroken,” that the event was “not a scam as everyone is reporting,” and noted that this was “NOT MY FAULT.”
Investors in Fyre suffered $24 million in losses, it was revealed in court.
Ja Rule was not part of this case but may not be completely off the hook, as he remains named in a class-action civil suit, along with Fyre organizers and investors.