Billy McFarland, whose name rose to infamy after the implosion of Fyre Music Festival this spring, has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud in the United States District Court in Manhattan on Monday, according to The New York Times. On top of a slew of civil and federal lawsuits regarding the failure of Fyre Fest, McFarland was arrested by federal authorities in June on one count of wire fraud for allegedly making false representations in order to gain financial support for the flopped venture.
McFarland, 25, as well as co-organizers including rapper Ja Rule, were hit with over a dozen lawsuits after guests paid thousands of dollars for an advertised “luxury” festival in the Bahamas filled with top-shelf liquor, gourmet meals, and big names in music. Attendees arrived to cold cheese sandwiches, porta-potties, and a barren island unfit for any music festival, let alone a luxurious one.
Weeks after his arrest, the company in charge of organizing the festival, Fyre Festival, LLC, was placed in bankruptcy by judge Martin Glenn, who ordered the company to prepare documents indicating its creditors and amounts owed. The month after that, McFarland’s attorney, Michael Levin, quit after McFarland failed to pay the lawyer’s retainer fee. He then announced he planned to represent himself, but failed to appear in court for several of the civil cases.
Now, McFarland pleads not guilty to his charge of wire fraud and waived his right to be charged in an indictment by a grand jury. He may change his plea at any time before the trial. McFarland is accused of misrepresenting financial information to investors who paid him $1.2 million to support his music festival endeavor. If found guilty, McFarland could face a sentence of up to 20 years.
A pretrial hearing for Mr. McFarland’s case is scheduled for December 13.