The founder of the doomed Fyre Festival could spend years in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding investors out of millions of dollars

  • The Fyre Festival organiser Billy McFarland pleaded guilty to wire-fraud charges on Tuesday.
  • The 26-year-old was arrested in June after being accused of misleading investors who poured money into Fyre Media.
  • McFarland admitted to defrauding 80 investors and a ticket broker out of more than $US26 million.

Billy McFarland, the 26-year-old creator of the disastrous Fyre Festival, which left hundreds of participants stranded in the Bahamas last year, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud on Tuesday.

Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, but McFarland would most likely face eight to 10 years in prison plus a fine of up to $US300,000 under the plea deal, according to Bloomberg.

McFarland admitted to defrauding a ticket broker and 80 investors in Fyre Media, a company he founded that was responsible for putting on the Fyre Festival. Prosecutors have accused McFarland of using falsified documents to trick investors in a $US26 million scheme.

McFarland also pleaded guilty to duping an unnamed ticket broker into paying $US2 million for a block of advance tickets for future Fyre Festivals.

“My intention and effort was directed to organising a legitimate festival,” he said in court on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. “In an attempt to raise what I thought were needed funds, I lied to investors about various aspects of Fyre Media and my personal finances.”

He told the judge he “grossly underestimated the resources that would be necessary to hold an event of this magnitude.”

McFarland was arrested in June and accused of misleading investors who poured money into Fyre Media.

A statement released by Joon Kim, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time of McFarland’s arrest, said McFarland told investors that Fyre Media earned millions of dollars from thousands of artist bookings in 2016 and 2017, but in reality the company had brought in less than $US60,000 from about 60 artist bookings.

Fyre Festival was pitched as a luxury music and arts event with tickets starting at $US1,200. Attendees were expecting a VIP experience when they set off to Great Exuma in the Bahamas, but the reality they faced was very different: delayed flights, half-built huts to sleep in, and cold cheese sandwiches to eat. Partiers then found themselves stranded on the island with little food or water, and, at times, there was no electricity.

Fyre 6
Fyre Festival did not quite live up to expectations. Lamaan Gallal

McFarland is free on bail and living with his parents in New Jersey.