After initially pleading not guilty, as mxdwn reported, on Tuesday afternoon, Fyre Festival promoter Billy McFarland pleaded guilty for two counts of wire fraud in relation to both the festival and his own media company. According to the New York Times, McFarland told the judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, that “he had begun organizing the festival with good intentions but had “greatly underestimated the resources” it would take”.
According to what the prosecutors say, McFarland’s Fyre Media losses amount to around $26 million, quite a big burden on the company’s investors. McFarland admitted to have lied to them regarding the status of the company and his own personal finances, which he said to “deeply regret”. The company, however, filed for bankruptcy last year, as mxdwn reported.
The investigation started after the infamous collapse of the Fyre Festival’s latest edition, which was scheduled to take place on the island of Great Exuma, Bahamas, where workers and caterers were hired to prepare the venue for the arrival of the public, which in actuality was left stranded on a island with no music, no food, no festival.
McFarland, according to the prosecutors, had defrauded investors by showing them false financial documents that falsely listed millions of dollars in talent-booking revenue for Fyre Media. In reality, as reported by the New York Times, “the documents said the company had earned only about $57,000 in bookings in the year leading up to the festival”.
He also allegedly lied about the amount of company’s stock he owned, as to appear more financially reliable thus able to guarantee large investments and inflated revenue reports to induce ticket vendors to “pay $2 million for a block of advance tickets for future festivals”.
Meanwhile, promotion campaigns on social media revved up expectation and popularity of the event, with VIP packages that included $400.000 hotel rooms and dinner with the festival performers. The location was advertised as a luxurious, secluded paradise with delicious food and great music, provided by headliners Blink-182. In reality, the band cancelled, their equipment got stuck at customs and the festival was an altogether fiasco.
While it’s unlikely, McFarland might face a 20 year sentence. The final verdict will arrive in June.