The New York Post has obtained documents indicating that Fyre Festival promoter Billy McFarland spent more than $150,000 on a yacht last April for the band Blink-182. It's no wonder his doomed music festival didn't even have running water. McFarland also allegedly spent $18,208 on towels, and $260,000 on a carpet for the partially-constructed tents where people were expected to sleep.
“There was gross mismanagement and a general misunderstanding of how events like this unfold and that purchases weren’t being vetted,” a source told the New York Post. “At no point in time if you look at the big picture does it appear that there was ever a criminal element. It was just the idea of a 20-something who unraveled.” Blink-182 eventually pulled out of the event, stating, “We’re not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give our fans.”
McFarland is expected to be in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. He’s facing wire fraud charges for lying to investors. McFarland claimed that his company, Fyre Media, had made millions from booking thousands of artists, when in reality, his company had revenues well below $60,000. McFarland is expected to plead guilty after waiving his right to a grand jury indictment. He has reportedly been speaking with prosecutors about a “possible disposition of the case” as far back as August.
UPDATED 7/2/17 3:15 p.m. ET: Fyre Festival organizer William “Billy” McFarland has been released on $300,000 bail after spending at least one night in a New York detention center following his arrest on wire fraud charges.
“The judge, Kevin N. Fox of United States District Court in Manhattan, set Mr. McFarland’s bail at $300,000, to be secured by $50,000 in cash or property,” reported Ben Sisario of the New York Times. “Mr. McFarland’s lawyer, Sabrina P. Shroff, said that he had been released after the hearing on Saturday, and that he had one week to satisfy the bail conditions.”
The Times also reports Shroff is a public defender, and Shroff told reporters McFarland was unable to pay his previous lawyers enough to continue representing him.
McFarland’s assets, or lack thereof, will likely be a point of contention during the trial. An unsealed, Department of Justice criminal complaint against McFarland released Friday, accused McFarland of misrepresenting his assets and his company's worth to convince investors to financially back the Fyre Festival.
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The disastrous Fyre Festival from this spring that resulted in hilarious memes and a very public dragging of Ja Rule, will potentially have more serious results for its founder, Billy McFarland. Friday, the Department of Justice announced the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging McFarland with wire fraud.
“As alleged, William McFarland promised a ‘life changing’ music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster,” acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said. “McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival. Thanks to the investigative efforts of the FBI, McFarland will now have to answer for his crimes.”
In April, the inaugural Fyre Festival was canceled at the last minute, leaving some attendees stranded in the Bahamas, as paid celebrity promoters and previously booked music acts distanced themselves from the event.
The charge of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, though the DOJ noted the potential sentencing was only disclosed for illustrative purposes.
According to the unsealed complaint, Fyre Media earned less than $60,000 in revenue from approximately 60 artist bookings between 2016 and 2017. However, the DOJ accuses McFarland of telling investors that Fyre Media earned millions of dollars in revenue from thousands of artist bookings from at least July 2016 until April 2017. The report went on to blast McFarland for providing “materially false” information to investors and putting on a festival that was “widely deemed to have been a failure.”
Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, founders of the failed Fyre Festival, have reportedly been “barred” from trying again in the Bahamas. Bahamas Ministry of Tourism sources toldTMZ they were planning to start enforcing a “stricter vetting system” for musicfestivals in the future, an overhaul that will include checking in with organizers repeatedly throughout any event's development process.
The reason the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism didn't intervene during the Fyre Festival's planning process, according toTMZ, is that they didn't have the authority due to its status as a private event. On Sunday, famous lawyer Mark Geragos filed a $100 million lawsuit against Ja Rule, Billy McFarland, and the Fyre Media brand alleging breach of contract, fraud, breach of covenant of good faith, and negligent misrepresentation.
The suit, TMZreported Tuesday, also alleges that Fyre attendees were locked inside the airport terminal “for hours” as security officials put up a fence around the building to make sure no one left the premises. Additionally, some attendees reportedly passed out due to lack of water while waiting for a departing flight. There was also, according to a photo, some sort of tiny fire fyre going on?
Burned Fyre attendees have two options, according to the New York Times' Joe Coscarelli. they can take their refund and get on with their lives, or they can pay it forward by receiving VIP passes for whatever the Fyre team is planning for 2018:
just fyi: Fyre Festival customers can forgo a refund in exchange for VIP passes to next year’s festival 🙂 pic.twitter.com/nUWWlpKX9R
For the last four or five days, your Twitter timeline has no doubt been inundated with the nightmare situation known as Fyre Festival, which went from being a $12,000-a-pop music festival for the rich, white elite to what looked like a disaster recovery situation (with actual disaster relief tents). In the fallout, it's been announced that Ja Rule and the squad behind the Fyre Festivalis being hit with a $100 million class action lawsuit for their gross fuck up.
While it's been easy to chuck “Ja Rule The Scammer” tweets out there, it might be time to look at one of the other “names” on the Fyre Festival lawsuit; Billy McFarland. At 25, dude's already had his name affixed to a number of companies, primarily with an emphasis on millennials who want the finer things in life. He's one of those entrepreneurial guys who always seems to have a plan, and can apparently talk his way into a pile of money without truly delivering on his promises. A.k.a. the American way. Here's a look at Billy McFarland's pre-Fyre highlights.
McFarland's always been a businessman
When you were 13, you probably were trying to bag shorty in your math class; yung McFarland was already building his first startup, which apparently outsourced design work. A few years later, he was already dropping out of Bucknell University to found Spling, which at the time was another addition to the social networking space that secured $400,000 in funding back in 2011.
Neither of these startups caused as much havoc as his 2014 startup Magnises, which found McFarland creating his own black card (which after turned into an app, Magnises NOW) for millennials who were trying to get their IRL social status game up. It sounds dope, but apparently, you had to promise to spend $250,000 a year through the card (with a $250 annual fee) to get the Magnises perks like 24/7 concierge service, special treatment and discounts from elite brands and restaurants, and invites to exclusive events.
At the time, McFarland told Bloomberg that Magnises “enhances and really improves your everyday life in the city,” but in January of 2017, Business Insiderreported that cardholders felt scammed, saying that the perks that Magnises promised (which included everything from Hamilton tickets to SR-22 plane rides to the Hamptons) were not being met. At the time, McFarland said Magnises “hit some roadblocks along the way, and that's what happens when you grow really quickly, and that's on me.” But McFarland's troubles weren't focused solely on Magnises' troubles.
McFarland trashed his $13,000-a-month West Village home
It's a given that when most young guys secure a bag, they might go ham with their earnings. According to the New York Post, in 2013 McFarland had a 500-person birthday party for photographer/socialite Patrick McMullan at his $13,750-a-month duplex on Greenwich Ave. This was one of many “blowout parties” that the landlord said caused roughly $62,000 worth of damage to the spot. At the time, the owner was looking for McFarland to pony up $100,000 in damages, but McFarland said the charges were “not valid.”
WTF is Fyre Media?
That's hard to say; according to LinkedIn, Fyre Media, Inc. was founded in 2015 is “an on demand service that makes booking the most influential celebrities, artists, athletes, models, and entertainers seamless and transparent.” They have an app, and it looks like some of their “exclusive” artists feature Fat Joe, Waka Flocka, Soulja Boy, Jim Jones, and Ja Rule. Rule, who has been listed as a co-founder of Fyre, is reportedly the “mastermind” behind the Fyre Festival, which McFarland was touting as a “luxury music festival” that was due to span two weekends (April 28-30, 2017 and May 5-7, 2017) in the Bahamas.
Aside from the musical acts, which were to include everyone from G.O.O.D. Music and Blink-182 to Disclosure and Lil Yachty, Fyre Festival was reportedly set to have $1 million worth of “hidden treasures” that would be found all over the island. It was also set to feature all kinds of rich, elite millennials attending, paying upwards of $12,000-a-pop to experience the music, art installations, talks, amazing food, and much more while chilling on the sands of Fyre Cay in the Bahamas.
As we now know, what the people got when they hit the island was the exact opposite of a “luxury music festival” experience, a day which McFarland told Rolling Stone was “definitely the toughest day” of his short, intriguing, possibly scam-filled life. It doesn't help that the festival appeared to be doomed from the start, with everything from “a rampant shark problem” and sandflies to the fucking FEMA tents and not having a stage(?!) setup revealed that Fyre was the dumpster fire it turned out to be from the rip.
McFarland also told Rolling Stone that “there will be make-up dates, May 2018 in the U.S., free for everybody who signed up for this festival,” although at this point, with his cache (and the social media shitstorm that followed the Fyre Festival) and that $100 million lawsuit looming over his head, what masochist would want to subject themselves to Fyre Festival, The Sequel?
Maybe McFarland needs to do what he does best: find new ways to rope money-hungry millennials into giving him more of their cheddar.
The Fyre Festival fun continues. On Monday, ABC Newsreported that lawyer Mark Geragos had filed a $100 million proposed class action lawsuit against the botched Bahamas music festival's organizers. The suit, filed Sunday, claims the festival was “nothing more than a get-rich-quick scam from the very beginning.” Geragos has previously represented Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, and Winona Ryder.
Geragos' suit against Ja Rule, Billy McFarland, and Fyre Media seeks damages of at least $100 million on behalf of Daniel Jung and other attendees. According to the suit, Fyre Fest's lack of “adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care” contributed to a dangerous situation in which attendees were “stranded” on a remote island. As for the island itself, the Wrapreported that the suit disputes the fest's claims of the event taking place on an island previously owned by Pablo Escobar. Festival organizers are accused in the suit of breach of contract, fraud, breach of covenant of good faith, and negligent misrepresentation.
In a tweeted statement Friday, Ja Rule said he was “heartbroken” and pushed back against the “scam” claims. “I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT,” he said. “But I'm taking responsibility.”
In a separate statement to Rolling Stone, McFarland announced make-up dates for Fyre Fest for May 2018 and vowed that anyone who signed up for the inaugural event would be able to attend free of charge. “Today is definitely the toughest day of my life,” McFarland said.
A so-called “luxury” music festival in the Bahamas originally scheduled to feature performances from Pusha T, Desiigner, Lil Yachty, Blink-182, and more has descended into complete pandemonium. The festival was co-organized by Ja Rule and promoted by Bella Hadid and other celebrities, but BBC Newsreported Friday that the event had been plagued with reports of “no security” and canceled flights.
Reports on social media, including a play-by-play rundown from writer William N. Finley IV that was still in progress at the time of this writing, paint a pretty grim picture of the Exuma proceedings:
So Fyre Fest is a complete disaster. Mass chaos. No organization. No one knows where to go. There are no villas, just a disaster tent city. pic.twitter.com/1lSWtnk7cA
On Thursday, Blink-182 issued a statement announcing their decision to pull out of their previously scheduled Fyre Fest performances this weekend and next weekend. “We're not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give our fans,” the band said. Other artists listed on the festival's schedule included Skepta, Tyga, Kaytranada, Major Lazer, and Rae Sremmurd.
Fyre Festival, according toVanity Fair, is a product of Fyre Media, the startup Ja Rule launched with tech partner Billy McFarland in 2015. “We didn't just want to be a tech company that was a pure enterprise with no consumer awareness,” McFarland said in an interview conducted prior to the chaos. “So a festival was a great way to go and do that and beyond people who are attending.” The festival aimed for luxury, with a spokesperson tellingVanity Fair it was possible “to spend in excess of $104,995” for the “Fyre experience.”
Early Friday morning, a Twitter account associated with the Fyre Festival announced that the event had been “fully postponed.” In a previous statement on Instagram, Fyre reps conceded that “things got off to an unexpected start” on the first day of the would-be festival.
Due to unforeseen and extenuating circumstances, Fyre Festival has been fully postponed (con't)
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism offered a “heartfelt apology” to Fyre attendees who had traveled for the event, saying in a statement that “tourism is our number one industry” and that they were “extremely disappointed” in the way the festival had unfolded:
We are extremely disappointed in the way the events unfolded yesterday with the Fyre Festival. We offer a heartfelt apology to all who traveled to our country for this event. Tourism is our number one industry and it is our aim to deliver world-class experiences and events. Hundreds of visitors to Exuma were met with total disorganization and chaos. The organizers of Fyre recently asked the Ministry of Tourism for support for their private event. The Ministry of Tourism is not an official sponsor of Fyre Festival. Given the magnitude of this undertaking, the MOT lent its support as we do with all international events. We offered advice and assisted with communications with other government agencies. The event organizers assured us that all measures were taken to ensure a safe and successful event but clearly they did not have the capacity to execute an event of this scale. A team of Ministry of Tourism representatives is on the island to assist with the organization of a safe return of all Fyre Festival visitors. It is our hope that the Fyre Festival visitors would consider returning to the Islands Of The Bahamas in the future to truly experience all of our beauty.
Complex's attempts to reach Fyre Festival reps Friday were not immediately successful.