Billy McFarland, the man behind the epic fail that this year’s Fyre Festival, has pled not guilty to charges of wire fraud and making false statements to a bank.
The 25-year-old promoter and founder of Fyre Media appeared in Manhattan federal court on Monday morning (US time) charged with intentionally misleading the festival’s investors by providing false documentation of his company’s income, making false claims about the festival’s insurance policies and providing fraudulent documentation of a AUD$3.8 million bank loan.
McFarland was arrested on June 30 after an FBI investigation into the shitshow, which saw hundreds of furious festival-goers stranded on Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas in April after the Fyre Festival’s last-minute cancellation.
Prosecutors must now present their evidence to the defense within the next two weeks, with a pre-trial hearing set for December 13. If an agreement can’t be reached by McFarland and US prosecutors, the case will go to trial in the first half of 2018. While he’s currently pleading not guilty, McFarland can change his plea at any time before the trial kicks off.
The disgraced entrepreneur could be looking at serious jail time if he’s found guilty. Criminal fraud convictions can carry a sentence of up to 20 years, but during the trial federal prosecutors will need to convince a grand jury that McFarland was not just incompetent, but actually formed an intent to defraud investors.
Some punters coughed up AUD$15,300 per ticket for the much-hyped “Coachella in the Caribbean” experience, which was promoted on Instagram by the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid.
Promised luxury villas and gourmet food, ticket-holders claim they were met with disaster relief tents and nothing to eat but cheese sandwiches. When they attempted to get the hell out of there, attendees were told that most flights back to the US mainland had been cancelled, leaving them stranded at the airport.
While 2000s rapper and McFarland’s associate Ja Rule has been spared from the criminal charges, he’s been named alongside McFarland in a bunch of civil action lawsuits from ticked-off investors.
Will it ever end?