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McFarland rearrested over ticket scam allegations

The Fyre Festival co-founder, who has already pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, has been accused of operating a fraudulent ticket sales platform, NYC VIP Access

By Jon Chapple on 13 Jun 2018

Billy McFarland, then CEO of Magnises, pictured in 2014

image © Ian Moran (I to Z Photo + Video)

Fyre Festival promoter Billy McFarland, who faces up to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty in March to defrauding investors, has been slapped with a new lawsuit by the FBI for allegedly running a fraudulent ticket-selling scam.

The suit, filed yesterday (13 June) in the US district court for southern New York, charges McFarland with one further count of wire fraud and a second of money laundering.

The bureau alleges McFarland earned approximately US$100,000 by selling non-existent tickets to music, fashion and sporting events – including Burning Man 2018, Coachella 2018 and the 2018 Grammy Awards – through a company called NYC VIP Access, using customer data from those who had bought Fyre Festival tickets. “He targeted the same victims who tried to attend his Fyre Festival,” prosecutor Kristy Greenberg told Manhattan judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein, according to the Associated Press.

Gorenstein ordered 26-year-old McFarland to be re-arrested, pending his sentencing next week on the original charges.

“Mr McFarland is a serial fraudster, plain and simple”

His lawyer, Randall Jackson, said the detention is unnecessary, stating that McFarland cooperated with investigators and shows no risk of fleeing. “We vigorously contest what is in this complaint,” Jackson told the judge.

However, Greenberg called McFarland “a serial fraudster, plain and simple”, and said he is “looking at a significant term of imprisonment”.

Fyre Festival – billed as “the adventure of a lifetime” amid the “beautiful turquoise waters and idyllic beaches” of the island of Grand Exuma, in the Bahamas – spectacularly collapsed on its first day, with festivalgoers arriving on the island to find a half-built festival site and no sign of the luxury accommodation and dining included with their $1,500–$50,000 tickets.

McFarland (pictured) co-founded the event with Jeffrey Atkins (Ja Rule)’s Fyre Media company, but “ran the show”, says Atkins, who has denied liability for the disaster. McFarland was arrested in July 2017, and has since been charged with defrauding 80 investors out of nearly $26m.


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