Arrested Fyre Festival Promoter Gets Bail

Billy McFarland, right, leaves court in Manhattan on July 1 with public defender Sabrina Shroff after his arraignment on a count of federal wire fraud in connection to his promotion of the failed Fyre Festival. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

MANHATTAN (CN) — The New Yorker facing a federal fraud charge for his promotion of the Fyre Festival debacle in the Bahamas this spring was freed on bail Saturday.

Billy McFarland, 25, was charged in Manhattan late Friday with one count of wire fraud. Prosecutors say the Manhattanite began collecting more than $1 million from investors in fall 2016 by billing his Fyre Festival as an ultra-luxurious event to take place on the Bahamian island of Exuma.

With the show set to run over two weekends in April and May 2017, McFarland’s company Fyre Media promised headline acts like Blink-182 and Migos.

After performers backed out and the show was canceled, however, prosecutors purportedly discovered that McFarland provided at least one investor with an altered stock ownership statement that gave the impression that McFarland could personally guarantee the investment. 

The government says that the altered brokerage statement McFarland provided indicated that he owned shares of a specific stock worth more than $2.5 million, when in reality his shares of that stock were valued at less than $1,500.

The Associated Press says McFarland declined to speak to reporters after he was freed on $300,000 bail Saturday, accompanied by Assistant Federal Defender Sabrina Shroff.

He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.

More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against McFarland and his partner in the festival, the rapper Ja Rule, since the festival’s collapse.

One of the complaints, filed in May in Los Angeles, calls the festival “nothing more than a get-rich-quick scam” akin to a Ponzi scheme.

Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, does not face charges in connection to the case.

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