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Fyre Festival Organizer Charged With Selling Fake Tickets While Out On Bail

Billy McFarland, the disgraced businessman behind last year’s disastrous Fyre Festival, faces new charges related to a fraudulent ticket scam federal prosecutors say he ran while free on bail.

McFarland, 26, sold fake tickets to exclusive events, including the Met Gala and Coachella, for several months while he was awaiting sentencing for charges related to the Fyre Festival, according to the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

McFarland was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering in the alleged scam, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

He pleaded guilty in March to two counts of wire fraud stemming from the April 2017 Fyre Festival debacle, in which attendees paid upwards of $250,000 for tickets to attend what McFarland’s company billed as an ultra-luxurious music festival that turned out to be an ultra-chaotic mess. 

Festival ticketholders had been promised a glamorous event on a remote island in the Bahamas, featuring pristine beaches, gourmet food and high-profile attendees. Instead, they arrived to find half-built tents, feral dogs and inadequate food and water. 

Billy McFarland (left) sold nearly $100,000 worth of fraudulent tickets in the several months since he's been free


Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Billy McFarland (left) sold nearly $100,000 worth of fraudulent tickets in the several months since he’s been free on bail, according to federal prosecutors.

McFarland was released on $300,000 bail in June 2017 after federal prosecutors accused him of giving investors fake documents to convince them to plow more than $1 million into his company and the Fyre Festival.

“In March of 2018, William McFarland pled guilty to defrauding investors and vendors of the Fyre Festival, but it is apparent that he did not stop there,” William F. Sweeney Jr., FBI assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement Tuesday.

McFarland sold nearly $100,000 worth of fraudulent tickets to approximately 15 customers through a company he controlled called NYC VIP Access, according to federal prosecutors. He either failed to provide the tickets or didn’t provide them as advertised, they said.

McFarland sent proceeds from the fraudulent sales to other people’s accounts in an attempt to conceal his connection to the funds, prosecutors said.

“Today’s charges depict our intolerance for such fraudulent activity, and we will continue to diligently investigate acts such as this,” Sweeney said in the statement.

Each of the three wire fraud charges, as well as the money laundering charge, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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