Billy McFarland, the founder of Fyre Festival—one of 2017’s biggest music festival disasters—has just been sentenced to six years in prison. The charges were for multiple counts of fraud, of which Fyre Festival was only one.
Back in March, McFarland pled guilty to two counts of wire fraud and admitted that he used fake documents to lure in investors. His original sentence was likely to be four to eight years for the wiring fraud charges, but that was before he was arrested again in June for another scheme.
While out on bond, he started a ticket-selling scam called “NYC VIP Access”. He offered people access to high-profile events like the Met Gala and managed to steal at least $150,000 from people. His attorneys claimed that money was going to be used to pay back his Fyre Festival investors, which doesn’t make things any better.
Though he was apologetic both in March and today, he still begged for leniency. He said that he had already faced violence in prison and that “I lived every day with the weight of knowing that I literally destroyed the lives of my friends and family.”
His legal counsel also asked for a lighter sentence, citing that McFarland had recently been diagnosed with untreated Bipolar Disorder, which kept him from knowing right and wrong. But U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald was having none of it. “Bipolar does not excuse behavior,” she said.
“It is my conclusion based on all the submissions that the defendant is a serial fraudster and that to date his fraud, like a circle has no ending.”
Even with this statement, her sentence was not as harsh as it could have been. The wire fraud charges alone each carried sentences of up to 20 years in prison. Yet he was sentenced to six years in prison, three years of supervised release and has to pay back the $26,182,386 that he owes – though no one is really quite sure how he will manage to do that.