Fyre Festival Co-Founder Billy McFarland Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison
Billy McFarland, a co-founder of the schadenfreude-rich, hospitality-poor debacleknown as the Fyre Festival, has been sentenced to six years in prison and three years on probation; he also will have to pay restitution of just more than $26 million. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald presided over McFarland's sentencing in the U.S. Southern District Court in Manhattan on Thursday.
During the sentencing, Judge Buchwald called McFarland a "serial fraudster," adding that he has "been dishonest for most of his life."
In a statement to the court, McFarland, dressed in a grey-green prison jumpsuit, said, "The thing that pushed me more than anything was fear" of the Fyre Festival collapsing and of "letting everyone down."
It's been a tumultuous year for McFarland and his defense team. After McFarland pleaded guilty to Fyre Festival-related charges in March, the business of sentencing McFarland was underway. In June, his defense team submitted its arguments for his sentencing, asking that along with paying just more than $26 million, McFarland should serve 1,000 hours of community service and either six months of house arrest or "a minimal period of incarceration."
But more than a week later, the SEC charged McFarland with starting a "sham" company called NYC VIP Access, accusing him of operating it between late 2017 and the time of his guilty plea in March, while he was on pretrial release. On July 26 — two days after reaching a settlement with the SEC over its NYC VIP Access charges — McFarland pleaded guilty to the new scheme.
"McFarland is unique in this court's memory," Judge Buchwald observed from the bench, "for starting the NYC VIP Access while awaiting trial, then thinking he could "talk his way out."