Billy McFarland is the New York man whose business ventures were targeted towards wealthy, status-seeking millennials, until he was sentenced to six years in prison for defrauding investors of nearly $27.4 million in the 2017 Fyre Festival. While McFarland was on bail, he once again ran a separate concert ticket scam and is now facing the consequences of his actions.
The 27-year-old appeared in court on Thursday with family members in Manhattan as U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald delivered the sentence.McFarland pleaded guilty in March and July, as Bloomberg reports, to the separate scams, which the government said were orchestrated to assist in paying for a luxurious lifestyle.
“I can’t believe how wrong I was,” McFarland told the judge before the sentence was announced. “I can’t believe how stupid I was. I betrayed the trust of my investors, customers, family and the court. My mistakes were severe and they hurt a lot of people.”
McFarland said the “extremely bitter reality” is that he ultimately squandered his privileged upbringing. He continued reading from a prepared statement, describing the violence and intimidation he endured in jail awaiting his sentence. “Incarceration provided a new perspective on life,” he said, which brought his family members to tears.
Randall Jackson, McFarland’s lawyer, blamed his client’s actions on maniac behavior, that he claims stems from an undiagnosed mental disorder and possible delusions of grandeur. McFarland’s lawyer based his remarks on the findings of two paid professionals who examined the defendant and filed reports with the court.
Judge Buchwald quickly denied those explanations, saying mental health issues are no excuse for criminal conduct. McFarland’s prompt guilty pleas were also deemed “nonsense” and “laughable” by the judge and said he was a “well-intentioned, enthusiastic young man who got in over his head.”
McFarland claimed the Fyre festival in the Bahamas was a luxury music event, however, those who paid $12,000 to attend, arrived on a remote island to discover poorly constructed tents, cold cheese sandwiches and quite a lack of proper restrooms.
“For the past five years, the defendant has been the consummate con artist,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum to the judge. “He betrayed and deceived his investors, customers, and employees while he was living the high life at his luxury apartment, traveling to exclusive locales, staying at luxury hotels, being chauffeured in his Maserati, and entertaining himself and his friends at restaurants, bars, and casinos.”
“Whenever he needed more money, he lied to investors to get it,” prosecutors said. “Whenever he wanted more money, he gave it to himself from business accounts. Whenever one scheme began to falter, he hatched a newer and more elaborate one.”