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Fyre Festival organizer arrested on federal fraud charge

"As alleged, William McFarland promised a 'life changing' music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said.

By Daniel Uria
Fyre Festival organizer arrested on federal fraud charge
Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland, seen here at a Magnises event in 2014, was arrested in New York and charged with one count of federal wire fraud for allegedly defrauding a pair of investors in the festival for about $1.2 million. Photo by Ian Moran/Wikimedia Commons

July 1 (UPI) -- William "Billy" McFarland, founder and organizer of Fyre Festival was arrested in New York on Friday and charged with one count of federal wire fraud.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office said McFarland, 25, took part in a scheme to defraud investors in the failed music festival by misrepresenting financial information about his company Fyre Media.

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"As alleged, William McFarland promised a 'life changing' music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said. "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."

The allegations state McFarland attempted to defraud at least two individuals who invested $1.2 million into Fyre Media and the Fyre Festival, and provided a false stock ownership statement to one investor to create the illusion he could personally guarantee the investment.

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McFarland also told investors, prosecutors say, that Fyre Media earned millions of dollars in revenue by booking artists for thousands of public appearances between July 2016 until April 2017, when in reality the company earned less than $60,000 from about 60 artist bookings during that period.

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Rapper Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins was McFarland's partner in the founding of Fyre Festival and faces more than a dozen lawsuits for his involvement, but his lawyer said he has not been arrested.

"Mr. Atkins is not under arrest and we don't perceive him to be a subject of this investigation," his lawyer Stacey Richman told the New York Times.

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McFarland's arrest is the latest development following the failure of Fyre Festival, which charged as much as $400,000 for tickets to a music festival in the Bahamas promoted by models and promising acts such as Blink-182. Guests arrived to find improvised tents and box lunches and the disorganized festival was promptly canceled.

The charge of wire fraud which McFarland faces carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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