Fyre Festival Organizer Arrested and Charged with Criminal Fraud

July 1, 2017, 3:52 PM UTC

William McFarland, who partnered with rapper Ja Rule to organize a failed luxury festival in the Bahamas, was arrested by federal agents at his Manhattan home on Friday. McFarland faces one count of wire fraud, with federal authorities alleging he defrauded investors in his company, Fyre Media, through dramatic financial misrepresentations. The charges carry a possible 20-year prison sentence.

According to the criminal complaint, McFarland told investors that Fyre Media, a web-based celebrity booking service, had earned millions of dollars in revenue in two years, while its actual revenue was $57,443. The complaint also says McFarland altered a brokerage account statement to show $2.5 million in ownership of a certain stock, when his actual stake was $1,500.

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According to the New York Times, the implosion of the Fyre Festival in April helped expose McFarland’s deception and led to his arrest. The festival, which promised a luxurious experience in and top-flight musical entertainment, instead provided guests with wet beds and limp salads before being canceled entirely. The fiasco became a target of widespread ridicule on social media.

Representatives for Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, told the Times that the rapper had not been arrested, and that they did not expect him to be a target of criminal investigation. However, McFarland and Atkins, along with some of the social media “influencers” who helped promote the event, face a series of civil suits from investors and attendees.