Update: Fyre Fest Promoter Released On Bail

The promoter behind the disastrous Fyre Festival luxury event that turned into an island nightmare was released on $300,000 bail July 1 after being represented by a public defender.

Carrying $5,000 in cash when he was arrested by federal agents June 30, Billy McFarland lives in a $21,000 per month Manhattan penthouse and drives a Maserati, according to the New York Times.

McFarland’s lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, said McFarland was released after a hearing July 1 and had a week to satisfy bail conditions, which was $300,000 bail to be secured by $50,000 in cash or property.

Billy McFarland
AP Photo / Mary Altaffer
– Billy McFarland
Billy McFarland is followed by reporters as he leaves federal court after his arraignment July 1 in New York.

McFarland was charged with one count of wire fraud, which involves a scheme to defraud investors including misrepresenting financial information about McFarland’s Fyre Media company, federal prosecutors announced.

Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement: “McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival.” 

McFarland could face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

According to the complaint, sworn to by an FBI agent, at least two people invested more than $1 million into McFarland’s companies. McFarland allegedly said his companies had earned millions from celebrity bookings, but the complaint said revenue totaled just $57,443, according to the Times.

McFarland also allegedly inflated the amount of stock he owned in a particular company, showing a Scottrade statement that said he had $2.5 million in stock when in reality his shares were worth $1,500. Investigators believe there may be more than 80 investors who got hosed.

McFarland faces more than a dozen civil lawsuits in connection to Fyre Festival, which was supposed to be a lavish getaway on a private island but ended up serving sandwiches and lettuce to guests in makeshift shanties who were forced to use portable toilets and had no way home. 

Co-organized with Ja Rule, the event was to feature performances from artists including Blink-182 before everyone from artists to caterers backed out. The event went on, with attendees comparing the experience to “The Hunger Games.” Later, emails surfaced from organizers during the event saying that at least if no one had anything to eat, they wouldn’t need to use the portable toilets.

Ja Rule’s attorney told the New York Times the artist had not been arrested and it was not expected he would be a subject in the current investigation.

McFarland’s financial situation was a main subject of the hearing, which was to set bail and inform McFarland of his rights.

Public defenders are reserved for defendants with limited assets, which is often up for debate, as in the case of Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as “El Chapo.”

McFarland’s attorney said his previous lawyers were not paid enough to continue representing McFarland, according to the Times.

An assistant U.S. attorney told the Times McFarland had not filled out a financial affidavit listing his assets, but he had a week to submit that form.

A preliminary hearing for the case was scheduled for July 31.

– Ryan Borba –

Fyre Festival Promoter Arrested – Associated Press (posted Friday, June 30 at 11:02 pm PDT)

The promoter behind a failed music festival that was in the Bahamas was arrested Friday in New York on a wire fraud charge.

Billy McFarland was charged with scheming to defraud investors in his company, Fyre Media, and Fyre Festival that was supposed to take place on the island of Exuma over two weekends in April and May.

‘Fyre’ Bomb
Jake Strang via AP
– ‘Fyre’ Bomb
Tents and a portable toilet set up for attendees for the Fyre Festival in the Exuma islands, Bahamas.

The Fyre Festival was billed as an ultra-luxurious event with headliners including rockers Blink-182 and the hip-hop act Migos. But performers bowed out and organizers were forced to cancel the show.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said McFarland presented fake documents to induce investors to put more than $1 million into his company and the failed festival.

Kim said McFarland “promised a ‘life changing’ music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster.”

An attorney who has represented McFarland did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

McFarland and his partner, the rapper Ja Rule, already face more than a dozen lawsuits filed by ticket buyers and investors in the festival.

A lawsuit filed in May in Los Angeles said the festival was “nothing more than a get-rich-quick scam” akin to a Ponzi scheme.

Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, has not been arrested.

McFarland, 25, is expected to appear before a federal magistrate judge on Saturday.

He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.