Frauds of the Rich and Famous: Billy McFarland and The Fyre Festival

Who’s excited for Fyre Festival II? What’s the Fyre Festival you ask? If you missed the original Fyre Festival, here’s what you missed.

The original Fyre Festival was billed as an ultra-luxurious musical event that was supposed to take place over two spring weekends in 2017 on the Bahamian island of Exuma. Customers paid thousands of dollars hoping to see 30+ artists and bands, including Blink-182, Lil Yachty and Migos. In the weeks and days leading up to the festival, the caterer withdrew, all of the musical acts cancelled, and plans to erect temporary villas were abandoned.

Despite all of this, the decision was made to go on with the musical festival without any musicians. When attendees arrived, the luxury accommodations were leaky tents and the food was bread and cheese. There were many other problems, including no lighting and insufficient toilets! – To get a picture of the magnitude of the issues, I highly recommend the documentaries on Netflix and Hulu about the original Fyre Festival.

In June 2017, Billy McFarland, the founder of the original Fyre Festival, was arrested and charged with wire fraud. After his arrest in the Fyre Festival scam, he participated in a fraudulent ticket-selling scheme in which he sold tickets that he didn’t have to the Met Gala and Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. As part of the case against Mr. McFarland, he admitted to defrauding investors and ticket-holders of approximately $26 million in the original Fyre Festival. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

In 2022, Mr. McFarland was released from prison. In 2023, he announced Fyre Festival II. Despite what happened with Fyre Festival I, and despite no proof that Fyre Festival II has a venue, a date, or a musical lineup, the first tier of 100 tickets to Fyre Festival II (with tickets beginning at $499) has already sold out (according to Mr. McFarland).

If you bought tickets to Fyre Festival II or if you have questions or concerns regarding fraud in your organization, contact Tom Pratt or Brian Webster.

This article is part of a series exploring some of the most famous fraud cases straight from the headlines, additional articles include:

While Fraud Week may only be featured once a year, the professionals in our Consulting group help to rewrite the script for our clients by educating, assisting, and preparing them throughout the year to address their unique fraud concerns.

Check out our Schneider Downs Consulting LinkedIn page throughout the week for additional information from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

About International Fraud Week

International Fraud Awareness Week, or Fraud Week, was established by the ACFE in 2000 as a dedicated time to raise awareness about fraud. The week-long campaign encourages business leaders and employees to proactively take steps to minimize the impact of fraud by promoting anti-fraud awareness and education.

Learn more at

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