Billy McFarland, who scammed hundreds of concertgoers with the failed Fyre Festival last year, was sentenced to six years in prison on Thursday for multiple counts of fraud.
The sentence was given by U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald at a Manhattan federal court. His sentencing also includes three years of supervised release, and orders to forfeit over $26 million, although it is unclear if McFarland has any of this to his name, VICE reports.
“The remorse I feel is crushing,” McFarland said in the New York federal court. “I’ve lived every day with the weight of knowing that I literally destroyed the lives of my friends and family.”
McFarland, 26, created Fyre Festival in 2017 and billed the event as a luxurious vacation in the Bahamas. However, when concertgoes arrived, they found a chaos-driven island with boxed lunches, tents, and no music. Since the festival, McFarland has faced a slew of charges.
In an attempt to pay back the investors for the festival, McFarland sold fake tickets through his latest company, NYC VIP Access. The company targeted Fyre’s client list to sell nonexistent tickets to big-name events like the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, the Super Bowl, and the Met Gala, which totaled $100,000.
His attorneys claimed that the ticket scam was launched to reimburse investors, but prosecutors pointed out that McFarland reinvested the bulk of the money he earned from NYC VIP Access and kept $20,000 for himself.
Some of McFarland’s victims took the stand, including investor Joe Nemeth. He said that McFarland’s scams had “financially ruined my and my wife’s life,” and although the couple are in their late 50s, they will not be able to retire now.
“It took me 20 years of saving my lunch money to save $180,000,” he said. “I hope the justice system has the last laugh at Mr. McFarland,” he said.
Throughout the hearing, McFarland claimed that he was “sorry” multiple times and asked for leniency. His legal team also requested leniency for McFarland, claiming that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder this October, which prevented him from making the right decisions. Additionally, he said that he faced violence in prison after his July arrest and noted that “the best way to be sorry is through my future actions.”
The judge did not back down, saying that the defendant is a “serial fraudster that to date his fraud, like a circle, has no ending.” She also noted that the bipolar disorder is no excuse for his behavior. While the judge was unmoved by his pleads of sorrow, she was somewhat lenient in the ruling; McFarland could have faced up to 20 years behind bars for three counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of lying to investors.
“For the past five years, the defendant has been the consummate con artist,” prosecutors said in a filing. “The defendant’s actions reveal a profoundly greedy, self-absorbed man focused exclusively on himself. Whenever he needed more money, he lied to investors to get it. Whenever he wanted more money, he gave it to himself from business accounts. Whenever one scheme began to falter, he hatched a newer and more elaborate one.”
Thursday’s ruling follows the lawsuit against McFarland this past summer where two Fyre Fest attendees were awarded $5 million in damages. Another class action lawsuits against McFarland, which was filed by multiple ticket holders, is still pending.