These photos reveal why the 26-year-old organizer of the disastrous Fyre Festival could spend 10 years in prison

Alessandra Ambrosio was featured in the festival's promo video.

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Alessandra Ambrosio was featured in the festival’s promo video.
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YouTube/Fyre Festival

  • Billy McFarland, who organized last year’s Fyre Festival, pleaded guilty to wire-fraud charges in March.
  • The 26-year-old was arrested in June 2017. He was accused of misleading investors in Fyre Media, the company behind the Fyre Festival.
  • On Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that McFarland, two companies he founded, a former senior executive, and a former contractor had agreed to settle fraud charges against them. The SEC said McFarland admitted to charges that he defrauded more than 100 investors out of $27.4 million.
  • On June 12, McFarland was arrested again on charges of selling fake tickets through a different company, called NYC VIP Access, starting in late 2017. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to those charges.
  • Here’s a look back at what happened at the Fyre Festival.

Billy McFarland, the 26-year-old founder of the nightmarish Fyre Festival that left hundreds of attendees stranded in the Bahamas last year, has pleaded guilty to a second fraudulent scheme.

On Thursday, McFarland admitted he had engaged in a separate ticket scam and committed bank fraud while the wire-fraud case related to his running of the Fyre Festival was pending. McFarland sold tickets to exclusive events, such as the 2018 Met Gala, Burning Man, Coachella, the Grammy Awards, and the Super Bowl through a company called NYC VIP Access.

“He concealed his association with NYC VIP Access so that he could solicit customers of Fyre Festival and his other company Magnises to buy tickets without raising suspicion,” the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York wrote in a press release on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that McFarland, two companies he founded, a former senior executive, and a former contractor had agreed to settle charges made against them in the Fyre Festival case. The SEC said that McFarland admitted to charges that he defrauded more than 100 investors out of $27.4 million and that he agreed to a permanent office-and-director bar.

The SEC’s charges were related to McFarland’s running of Fyre Media, the company behind the Fyre Festival, and Magnises, an events and membership company.

McFarland is set to be sentenced for those charges on August 16. He pleaded guilty to wire-fraud charges in March and could spend eight to 10 years in prison in addition to paying a fine, according to Bloomberg.

Fyre Festival promised to offer attendees a VIP experience when they set off to Great Exuma in the Bahamas. But the reality was very different, as attendees encountered delayed flights, half-built huts to sleep in, and cold cheese sandwiches to eat. And that doesn’t even include the disastrous trip home.

The luxury festival – tickets for which started at $1,200 – was advertised as two weekends in paradise, but it turned into a nightmare. Take a look at festivalgoers’ expectations compared with the reality they encountered. The story is now being developed into a TV series for Hulu.


The three-day party was supposed to be on a private beach on the island of Great Exuma in the Bahamas.

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YouTube/Fyre Festival

It was supposed to be over two weekends in 2017: April 28-30 and May 5-7.

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YouTube/Fyre Festival

It was described as an “immersive music festival.”

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YouTube/FyreFestival

A host of supermodels had promoted it on social media, including Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski, and Bella Hadid.

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YouTube/Fyre Festival

Guests expected to party on white-sand beaches.

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YouTube/Fyre Festival

But when they turned up, it didn’t look anything like the advertisements.


They were told they would fly in from Miami on a custom, VIP-configured Boeing 737 …

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A private jet is shown in the festival’s commercial.
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YouTube/Fyre Festival

… to have the full VIP experience.

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YouTube/Fyre Festival

Instead, guests ended up waiting for hours at the airport …

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Twitter/@WNFIV

… and collecting their luggage from the back of a shipping container in the dead of night.

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Twitter/@WNFIV

The ticket cost was meant to include gourmet food.

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YouTube/Fyre Festival

Guests were expecting Starr Catering Group to be there, but the group told Business Insider it had terminated its services with Fyre in early April 2017. Instead, there were makeshift food tents.

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Twitter/@WNFIV

They were given cheese sandwiches and salads.


Fans were expecting to see Blink-182 perform.

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YouTube/Fyre Festival

But the band dropped out before the festival started.


Festivalgoers were promised luxury, eco-friendly domes and villas to stay in that were included in the ticket prices. But one guest described it as a “disaster tent city.”


Some of the tents hadn’t been put up.


Instead of partying on the beach with friends …

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YouTube/Fyre Festival

… guests were trying to fly back to Miami.

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Twitter/@WNFIV

But for some, that wasn’t possible, and they ended up stranded in the airport.

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Twitter/@WNFIV

One guest said she was kept in a room without food or water, waiting for a flight to take off. She said a person fainted because the conditions were so bad.

Not exactly the VIP experience they had envisioned.


The festival’s organizer, Billy McFarland, could now spend 10 years in prison.


In March, McFarland pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, but McFarland would most likely face eight to 10 years in prison plus a fine of up to $300,000 under the plea deal, according to Bloomberg.

Source: Bloomberg


The festival has become such a phenomenon that a documentary about it is being made for Hulu.


The documentary, set to air in 2019, is said to go behind the scenes to find out exactly what happened.

Source: Hollywood Reporter


Images of the festival made the rounds on social media and were widely reported across global news organizations. This left many wondering whether it had damaged the reputation of the Bahamas altogether.

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Great Exuma in the Bahamas.
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YouTube/FyreFestival

Locals told Mic earlier this year that tourism has not been affected by the event. However, some resort owners who provided food or services for the festival said they were still awaiting payment.

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YouTube/Fyre Festival

Source: Mic


McFarland was arrested again on June 12 for a separate fraud case. He was charged with earning $100,000 from selling fake tickets to events including Coachella and the Met Gala through a company called NYC VIP Access.

Prosecutors said McFarland began running the business late last year, several months after he was arrested on charges that he had defrauded investors out of $26 million.


On June 19, a judge revoked his bail, deeming him a flight risk.

Source: Page Six


On Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that McFarland, two companies he founded (Fyre Media and Magnises), a former senior executive, and a former contractor had agreed to settle charges against them. McFarland is set to be sentenced on Thursday.

Grant Margolin, his chief marketing officer, agreed to a seven-year director-and-officer bar and will pay a $35,000 penalty, the SEC said.

It also said Daniel Simon, an independent contractor to McFarland’s companies, agreed to a three-year director-and-officer bar and will pay over $15,000 in disgorgement and penalty.


On Thursday, McFarland pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in relation to the second ticket scheme, in which he purported to sell tickets to exclusive fashion, music, and sporting events though NYC VIP Access.

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Magnises

He also pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud for writing a check with the name and account number of one of his employees without authorization.

McFarland will be sentenced for this case on September 17.


Here’s the full Fyre Festival promo video: