How Long Will Fyre Festival Promoter Spend in Jail?

By Jonathan Rose PA | Criminal Defense

Fyre Festival Founder Billy McFarland Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Facing Decades in Prison

Billy McFarland, 26, recently pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, which was meant to be the “cultural experience of the decade.” He partnered with Ja Rule, promoted his festival on social media, and got celebrities such as Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski to endorse his event.

How the event was billed

McFarland promised a private party with luxury accommodations and gourmet food. He claimed that famous music bands such as Blink-182 would perform at the festival.

The promoter coaxed festival-goers into purchasing ticket packages ranging from $1,200 to over $100,000. He misled the event organizers by giving them false information about Fyre Media’s financial condition. McFarland induced ticket vendors to pay $2 million for a block of advance tickets.

What actually happened

Ticket holders showed up at the venue only to find a muddy venue with cheap food. Customers criticized the festival on social media with the hashtag #fyrefraud. A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles described the festival “nothing more than a get-rich-quick scam.”

McFarland plead guilty to engaging in deceitful and dishonest conduct. “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. Those lies included false documents and information,” he admits.

Pleading guilty and sentencing

Readers may be interested in learning the various elements that will contribute to determining McFarland’s sentence. He has pleaded guilty to defrauding investors out of $26 million.

“The judge will assess specific offense characteristics to calculate the offense level of the crime,” states Orlando criminal defense attorney Jonathan Rose, who does not represent the client.

McFarland’s crimes could include wire fraud because he used social media and the Internet to perpetrate the crime. “The sentencing guidelines for larceny, embezzlement, theft, and fraud includes 43 levels. Because McFarland pleaded guilty to defrauding investors of $26 million, he will probably get three levels knocked off for accepting responsibility,” estimates Jonathan Rose who has 18 years of experience as a defense lawyer. “If I had to guess, assuming that no victims were harmed substantially, he might start at a level 22 and come down to a level 19. That puts him at about two and a half to three years of incarceration.”

Federal and state sentencing laws differ, and so does each case. If you or someone you know is dealing with fraud charges, it’s important to retain counsel as soon as you receive a target letter.

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