With both Netflix and Hulu releasing competing Fyre Festival documentaries within just days of each other (the shade!), questions about one of the biggest cons of our generation abound. The now-infamous Caribbean musical festival billed as an island paradise straight out your Instagram fantasies was organized and promoted by Ja Rule and entrepreneur Billy McFarland, who is serving prison time in 2019 for fraud associated with the festival.
As the docs (and Twitter’s response on the actual day of the festival) detail, what actually happened at the “luxury” Fyre festival is now the stuff of nightmares and legends. The island itself simply didn’t have the infrastructure in place to host a music festival; the amenities were either grossly exaggerated or nonexistent (surely no one can forget that viral photo of the slice of cheese on sad bread); and attendees were stranded with nowhere to sleep, little or nothing to eat, and no running water. Social media influencers including models like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid who were paid to promote the festival on Instagram weren’t there and promptly deleted any posts connected to Fyre. While Ja Rule maintained that Fyre wasn’t a scam, McFarland has suffered one rather serious consequence for going forward with the fest: prison time.
Back in October, the 26-year-old was sentenced to six years in prison by a federal judge in Manhattan for defrauding investors and ticket holders for Fyre Festival as well as selling $100,000 of fake tickets to exclusive events like the Met Gala and Grammys after the Fyre Festival failure. McFarland did actually end up going to prison (despite, as the Netflix doc shows, saying he’d never go). Naturally, he's not loving the experience and has to take "a shower in the sink" according to letters to his girlfriend (model Anastasia Eremenko) reads aloud in Fyre Fraud (the letter also includes drawings and "Billy loves Anastasia," she says).
But while he's locked up, he not staying silent. In November 2018, one month into his sentence, McFarland released a post-Fyre festival statement from jail, vowing to make things right by becoming a better person while serving his time.
“I am incredibly sorry for my collective actions and will right the wrongs I have delivered to my family, friends, partners, associates and, you, the general public,” he said in the statement released to People. “I’ve always sought — and dreamed — to accomplish incredible things by pushing the envelope to deliver for a common good, but I made many wrong and immature decisions along the way and I caused agony. As a result, I’ve lived every day in prison with pain, and I will continue to do so until I am able to make up for some of this harm through work and actions that society finds respectable.”
Despite the fact that he launched a fraudulent ticket-selling service after the Fyre Festival failed, McFarland claimed that he’s learned his lesson. “I’m devastated, but accepting, and I’ll use this opportunity to live my apology and become the family member, friend, business person and good citizen I should have been all along,” McFarland added. “I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me every step of the way. Your love keeps me focused. Your hope keeps me motivated. Earning your forgiveness will fuel the rest of my days.”
While he was already under investigation for the Fyre Festival disaster, McFarland was also arrested for creating the fraudulent ticket company NYC VIP Access, earning him the label of “the consummate con artist” by federal prosecutors. "William McFarland, already awaiting sentencing for a prior fraud scheme, allegedly continued to conduct criminal business as usual, selling nonexistent tickets to fashion, music, and sporting events," Geoffrey Berman, Manhattan US Attorney, said in a statement. "As alleged, McFarland’s purported exclusive event ticket company, NYC VIP Access, in fact had no access to events for which he sold bogus tickets."
According to The New York Times, McFarland plead guilty to two counts of wire fraud after it was revealed that he had defrauded investors of Fyre Media, the parent company of Fyre Festival, for a collective sum of $26 million USD, and then in July, he plead guilty to two counts of fraud again because of the ticket company he created while he was out on bail. He also pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal law enforcement.
After his six-year sentence in prison ends, McFarland will continue to pay for his crimes. He will serve three years of supervised release as well as forfeiting $26 million USD. Plus, he’s still facing all those class action lawsuits and two documentaries are now exposing the moments that led to his demise, so his saga of repercussions is far from over.