- Billy McFarland, the 26-year-old founder of the nightmarish Fyre Festival that left hundreds of attendees stranded in the Bahamas last year, pleaded guilty to a second fraudulent scheme on Thursday.
- On June 12, McFarland was arrested on charges of selling fake tickets through a different company, called NYC VIP Access, starting in late 2017. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and bank fraud related to that company.
- On Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that McFarland, two companies he founded, a former senior executive, and a former contractor had agreed to settle fraud charges against them related to Fyre Festival. The SEC said McFarland admitted to charges that he defrauded more than 100 investors out of $US27.4 million.
On Thursday, Billy McFarland, the 26-year-old creator of Fyre Media and Magnises, pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and bank fraud related to a ticket-selling scheme completely separate from Fyre Festival.
While out on bail on charges that he defrauded investors out of millions of dollars with Fyre Festival, McFarland allegedly sold fraudulent tickets to exclusive events, such as the 2018 Met Gala, Burning Man, Coachella, the Grammy Awards, and the Super Bowl, through a company called NYC VIP Access.
McFarland is accused of generating around $US150,000 in fake ticket sales from at least 30 customers, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York wrote in a press release on Thursday.
Prosecutors say that McFarland concealed his association with NYC VIP Access by using fake email addresses and those of his then-employees to contact customers. He apparently asked for payments to be made directly to the accounts of employees, who then gave him the money in cash.
“This was just another fraud in McFarland’s disturbing pattern of deception. McFarland’s fraudulent schemes cost real people real money, and now he faces real time in federal prison for his crimes,” Geoffrey S. Berman, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said during a court hearing on Thursday.
McFarland also pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud for allegedly writing a check with the name and account number of one of his employees without their authorization, and one count of making false statements to a federal law enforcement agent, including denying the wire fraud and bank fraud conduct to which he has now pleaded guilty, the court said.
On Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that McFarland, two companies he founded, a former senior executive, and a former contractor had agreed to settle charges made against them in the Fyre Festival case. The SEC said that McFarland admitted to charges that he defrauded more than 100 investors out of $US27.4 million and that he agreed to a permanent office-and-director bar. He is set to be sentenced for those charges on August 16.
He is due to be sentenced in the NYC VIP Access case on September 17 in front of the same judge. The wire-fraud charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, the bank fraud 40 years in prison, and the false-statement charge a further maximum of five years.
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