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Organizer of Fyre Festival arrested and charged for fraud

Could this be the final chapter of the Fyre Festival debacle?

  • Valerie Lee
  • 5 July 2017

It's hard to deny that one of the most memorable moments of the year in music-related headlines was the viral downfall of Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, a first year event that was marketed as a luxury festival held on a private island previously owned by Pablo Escobar to the elite of the world (advertised by Instagram famous models like Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski) that turned out to be a total sham when ticket buyers showed up to tents on a dirt patch near a chain hotel and bread and cheese instead of luxury catering and paradisal suites.

Billy McFarland, a co-organizer of Fyre Festival alongside celebrity rapper Ja Rule, was arrested on Friday of last week in his Manhattan home, charged with wire fraud for allegedly deceiving investors to finance his company Fyre Media, which was behind the festival.

"A criminal complaint unsealed on Friday detailed the case, which relies heavily on misrepresentations of financial information to people who invested in Fyre Media — whose main business was a website that let people book celebrities for special events," the New York Times states. "According to the complaint, sworn to by Brandon Racz, a special agent with the F.B.I., at least two people invested about $1.2 million in the two companies, and in communications with these investors in 2016 and 2017, Mr. McFarland repeatedly overstated Fyre Media's revenue from bookings and his own wealth."

McFarland was quickly placed in the hot seat after the event played out and faced numerous lawsuits, but despite the backlash, attempted to mend the situation by promising the festival's return next year and even offered this year's ticket buyer's VIP passes in lieu of refunds.

"As alleged, William McFarland promised a 'life changing' music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster," added Joon Kim, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney. "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."

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