The chronic con-man and co-founder of the disastrous 2017 Fyre Festival, Billy McFarland, was recently sentenced to six years in prison with three years’ probation along with $26 million in legal reparations. After pleading guilty for defrauding festival investors, McFarland was found guilty for setting up yet another fraudulent company in the wake of the scandal.
These scams are just a few in a series of frauds set up by McFarland. He was the co-founder of Fyre Media Inc. which defrauded investors and endangered the lives of ticket-holders at the ill-fated Fyre Festival.
What went wrong at the Fyre Festival?
The Fyre Festival was supposed to be a two-week exclusive music festival for young, wealthy guests in luxury accommodations. Guests believed they would be flown roundtrip from Miami to the Bahamas and stay in luxurious private accommodations. Social media influencers promised big-ticket acts, expensive food options and constant entertainment.
When guests arrived, they faced a disaster-like zone. There was no security, power, clean water or food. They had built no infrastructure on the private island, the entertainment had not been paid and there wasn’t enough unspoiled food to feed the guests. Conditions were so unsanitary that some guests walked away with bacterial infections.
Guests panicked and tried to leave the island, but the festival team urged guests to rely on them for an organized exodus. Many did not listen and did whatever they could to get on a plane. Cleanup from this event was exhaustive and expensive.
Were there warning signs?
Investors trusted this opportunity for a variety of reasons, but were fooled through forged insurance documents, McFarland’s charisma and a series of extensive cover-ups for McFarland’s investment failures. Media outlets have accused organizers of knowingly setting up a “Ponzi scheme” that would endanger guests and defraud investors.
Others claim that there was no evidence to the public that the event was unreliable until NPR reported that performers had yet to be compensated before the event began. The event was officially cancelled on the day it was scheduled to open, after guests had already arrived on the island.
Many investors of Fyre Media Inc and the Fyre Festival may never see their money again, as the insurance was fraudulent. Several class-action civil lawsuits are underway, with over $100 million in the balance. This event will serve as a warning to investors to beware social media “hype” over tangible product in the digital age.