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Fyre Fest Founder Pleads Guilty To Scam He Ran While Awaiting Sentencing On Other Scam

Billy McFarland outside federal court earlier this year
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Billy McFarland outside federal court earlier this year Mark Lennihan/AP/Shutterstock

The 26-year-old founder of the infamously disastrous Fyre Festival has now pleaded guilty to the fake ticket scam he was running while he was awaiting sentencing for the Fyre Fest scam.

William "Billy" McFarland admitted that his ticket company, NYC VIP Access, was selling fake tickets to events like Coachella, Burning Man, the Super Bowl, dinner with LeBron James, and the Met Gala—and that he took great pains to shield his connection to the company. He apparently convinced an employee to be the face of "NYC VIP Access" because he, the criminal complaint stated, "feared that the bad press from the Fyre Festival and his criminal prosecution for alleged fraud related to the Fyre Festival would prevent NYC VIP Access from being successful."

Fyre Fest victims, who had paid thousands of dollars for a luxury music experience (but found disaster tent housing and cheese sandwiches with no music because bands bailed), received offers for front-row tickets to the Victoria's Secret fashion show and wondered if they were being targeted again. And they were.

The U.S. Attorney's office says that $150,000 in fake tickets were sold between late 2017 through March 2018. McFarland had pleaded guilty to the Fyre Fest scam in March 2018, and three months later, the feds charged McFarland for the NYC VIP Access fraud.

McFarland pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud ("for writing a check with the name and account number of one of his employees without authorization"), and "one count of making false statements to a federal law enforcement agent in which he, among other things, falsely denied the wire fraud and bank fraud conduct to which he now has pled guilty," according to prosecutors.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman called it "another fraud in McFarland’s disturbing pattern of deception. McFarland’s fraudulent schemes cost real people real money, and now he faces real time in federal prison for his crimes."

Earlier this week, McFarland agreed to settle with the Securities Exchange and Commission for $27.4 million, which is what he raised from investors for Fyre Fest.

McFarland, who will be sentenced for the ticket scam in September, has been in custody at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center since a judge ruled that he was a flight risk. He has also been cooperating with a film crew for a Hulu docuseries. In June, Gothamist sat down with co-director Jenner Furst, who said, "You can teach yourself anything [on the Internet]: you can go and you can Google things, you can figure out how to code, you can figure out what people want, you can figure out how to make an incredible social media campaign, you could find partners for it, you can link up with influencers. But you can't teach yourself morality."

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