The entrepreneur behind the disastrous Fyre Festival, which was billed as an ultra-luxurious music festival set against a tropical Bahamian backdrop but descended into abject chaos, has been arrested and charged with wire fraud.
Billy McFarland, who set up the doomed festival under the aegis of his company Fyre Media, could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney said in a release.
The 25-year-old is accused of misrepresenting Fyre Media’s revenue to the tune of millions of dollars in order to attract investors, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI. He is also suspected of inflating the number of shares he owned to make it appear that he could personally guarantee investments.
According to Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr., McFarland “truly put on a show, misrepresenting the financial status of his business in order to rake in lucrative investment deals.”
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim labelled the Fyre Festival a “fiasco,” saying that McFarland “promised a ‘life changing’ music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster.”
“Thanks to the investigative efforts of the FBI, McFarland will now have to answer for his crimes,” Kim said.
The federal wire fraud charge is just one of many lawsuits facing the embattled McFarland and his partner in the venture, rapper Ja Rule.
The pair also have to contend with a $100-million class-action lawsuit seeking damages on behalf of festival attendees, as well as another lawsuit alleging that celebrities and social media influencers who were paid to promote the festival didn’t disclose as much, in violation of Federal Trade Commission rules.
The $100-million class action lawsuit alleges that the Fyre Festival was promoted as a posh, island-based music festival, but looked more like a “post-apocalyptic nightmare,” with attendees left stranded without adequate food, shelter and medical care.