Who Is Billy McFarland? New Details About The Felon Who Organized The Disastrous Fyre Festival

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Who Is Billy McFarland? New Details About The Felon Who Organized The Disastrous Fyre Festival

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you may not have yet watched the two awesome Fyre Festival documentaries on Hulu and Netflix. Many of us remember the real time disaster that was this festival, with attendees posting photos on social media. But it turned out to be much more than just wealthy millennials freaking out about being served bread and cheese, and having to camp out in disheveled FEMA tents.

The festival was a scam all along. Its creator, Billy McFarland, even swindled big names like Ja Rule, Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Emily Ratajkowski to promote the festival, using their influence. Both Fyre Fraud (Hulu) and FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix) touch on the unrealistic expectations, management issues, and outright fraud at the hands of McFarland and his staff.


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Just who is who is Billy McFarland, the mastermind behind one of the craziest scams of all-time? Here are a few things to know about the now-convicted felon and his failed “luxury music festival.”

1. He always had a knack for business.

When he was just 13 years old, he created an online outsourcing company that “matched clients with web designers.” In the Hulu documentary, McFarland remembered being this young kid, delegating to people all over the world.

While studying at Bucknell University, he started his first tech venture, eventually leaving to work on an online ad platform named Spling.

2. He had other ventures before Fyre Festival.

He founded Magnises in 2013, a company that created a “black card” that offered perks to millennials seeking a social status. He then launched Fyre Media Inc., an app that would allow people to book musicians and celebrities for events.

A New York Times writer called Magnises “...a way to dress up your everyday Wells Fargo or Bank of America card. Magnises simply transfers the data from the magnetic strip of that old card onto its blank metal card, like copying a CD, and then the Magnises card can be used in place of the original."

Though McFarland claimed the company was worth $90 million to get more investors, the company had really only done $60,000 in business.

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3. His arrest and sentencing are a big deal.

McFarland was arrested in June 2017 and charged with wire fraud. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of wife fraud and admitted to using fake documents to get investors. For the charges in relation to Fyre Festival, he was sentenced to six years in prison, and ordered to pay the $26 million investors put into his company.

In June 2018, while awaiting sentencing, he was charged with selling fraudulent tickets, a scheme he had been running before the festival. As the documentaries exposed, McFarland would sell tickets to events he didn’t actually have and then, at the last minute, scramble to find them. In this case, he was selling tickets to Burning Man, Coachella, and the Met Gala, the last of which doesn’t sell tickets to their event.

During his sentencing, he said, “The remorse I feel is crushing. I lived every day with the weight of knowing that I literally destroyed the lives of my friends and family.”

4. He’s since been sued.

After the disaster of Fyre Festival, McFarland and fellow organizer Ja Rule were sued for $100 million in a class action lawsuit. In addition to this lawsuit, four individual lawsuits and six federal lawsuits were filed.


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Samantha Maffucci is an associate editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.