Fyre Media CEO William McFarland was arrested and charged for wire fraud Friday, according to the Department of Justice. McFarland is well-known for the notorious Fyre Festival, a music festival held in the Bahamas that had many of its artists cancel and left attendees stranded on the island for several days due to the conditions and unpreparedness of the festival.
“As alleged, William McFarland promised a ‘life changing’ music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster,” said U.S. Attorney Joon Kim. “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.”
Apparently, McFarland attempted to convince investors to invest in Fyre (an app that lets event organizers bid on and recruit famous artists to perform at their booking) after telling them about how much money they were supposedly making from their bookings. Specifically, McFarland wanted $1.2 million from two investors and told them that Fyre Media was earning millions from the Fyre app between June 2016 to April 2017.
This wasn’t the case, though. Between these months, Fyre Media made less than $60,000 from sending artists to perform at 60 bookings. Which, in comparison, isn’t as much as McFarland previously claimed. He also claimed to one investor that he owned $2.5 million in stock shares in order to convince the investor that Fyre Media should be invested in when, in actuality, he only owned $1,500 of the same stock shares.
“Under McFarland’s direction, Fyre Media created a promoter’s marketplace for entertainment bidding. In addition to this initial business venture, McFarland went one step further in establishing a subsidiary of the company, Fyre Festival LLC,” said Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. “But in order to drive the success of both entities, as alleged, McFarland truly put on a show, misrepresenting the financial status of his businesses in order to rake in lucrative investment deals. In the end, the very public failure of the Fyre Festival signaled that something just wasn’t right, as we allege in detail today.”
Fyre Festival, created in a collaboration between McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, included a packed lineup with G.O.O.D. Music (Kanye West’s record label that has big acts such as Big Sean, Pusha T, Desiigner and Tyga signed to it), Major Lazer, Blink-182 and more. Tickets for the festival cost a whopping $1,595 (airfare and lodging included) while VIP packages (that included dinner with one of the festival’s performers) cost $399,995, according to NPR.
The news of Fyre Festival came out of nowhere and used celebrities that have strong social media standings such as Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, several well-known Victoria’s Secret models and more to promote itself online. A commercial that features some of these celebrities promoting the festival can be found on the Fyre Festival’s official YouTube channel.
When attendees arrived at the festival, they were left with limited food, water, unsafe tent lodgings and more. Flights out of the island were canceled and attendees trying to leave were physically locked in the airport without food or water, according to The Independent.
One producer of the festival said that due to the conditions of the festival, it was already planned to be canceled, according to an article they wrote in The Cut, a section of New York Magazine. The original plan was to reschedule the festival until the following year, but plans were changed to continue with it. This forced the organizers to try to pull something together since they were not prepared to continue with Fyre Festival.
The FBI began investigating the fraudulent claims against McFarland back in May, according to The New York Times. McFarland had a past reputation for shady business deals, but this one will surely never be forgotten.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.