At the end of April, an exclusive music festival promoted by Instagram “influencers” turned into a disaster, the result of poor planning, prompting a flurry of lawsuits and outcry from attendees. Now, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has announced that it has arrested and charged the festival’s organizer with wire fraud.
Acting United States Attorney Joon H. Kim alleges that William McFarland allegedly provided “at least one investor an altered stock ownership statement, in an effort to make it appear that McFarland would personally guarantee the investment.” The office also says that he misrepresented the company’s finances, saying that the company earned millions of dollars in revenue from booking artists between July 2016 and April 2017. Kim says this in reality, “Fyre Media earned less than $60,000 in revenue from approximately 60 artist bookings.” McFarland is charged with a single count of wire fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Fyre Fest was billed as an exclusive, luxury music festival on the island of Exuma in the Bahamas. Celebrities such as Kendall Jenner were paid upwards of $250,000 to promote the event, and guests shelled out anywhere from $450 and $12,000 dollars to attend. They were promised high-end catering, transportation via yacht, Jet Skis, and high-profile musical guests for the event, which was scheduled to kick off on April 27th.
When the attendees arrived, they found that the entire event was poorly organized, and fell far short of what was advertised. As word spread, the festival’s organizers quickly announced that the event would be postponed and promised refunds, but that hasn’t stopped a number of attendees from filing lawsuits against McFarland and his business partner, Ja Rule.