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Fyre Festival founder facing up to 75 years in prison with new guilty plea

Billy McFarland stole more than $100,000 while out on bail for charges related to his Fyre Fest scam.

by Gabrielle Bluestone
Jul 26 2018, 7:57pm

Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $100,000 while out on bail for charges related to his festival scam, tacking on at least three new felonies to his record.

McFarland pleaded guilty to felony charges of wire fraud, bank fraud, and lying to a federal officer in an 11 a.m. appearance before Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald on Thursday, according to the Justice Department. The plea deal carries a federal sentencing recommendation of 135 to 168 months in prison, though he could be sentenced to as many as 75 years under the felony maximums.

McFarland is still awaiting sentencing on two counts of wire fraud stemming from last year's doomed Bahamas music festival, which he pleaded guilty to in March. Before his second arrest, he was expected to serve somewhere between four and eight years, which could be increased due to the new charges. Those charges each carry a maximum of 20 years.

McFarland was re-arrested last month and charged with five felonies, including fraud, money laundering, identity theft, and witness intimidation, after VICE News published an account of his latest scams, which included a company called NYC VIP Access that purported to offer customers access to high-end events like the Met Gala and the Grammys.

READ: Fyre Fest's founder is going to prison but the spirit of his scam lives on

A VICE News investigation shows McFarland targeted victims of his previous companies, Fyre and Magnises, using the same mailing lists and pitch language. McFarland then attempted to conceal his involvement by using a recent college graduate as the face for the company and accessing the employee's bank accounts for his personal use, according to the indictment.

McFarland also ran at least two other schemes before he was re-arrested: Out East NY, offering customers a Hamptons house rental to which he never had access, and Sousa House NY, which was an apparent play on the private membership club, Soho House.

“McFarland’s fraudulent schemes cost real people real money, and now he faces real time in federal prison for his crimes,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement.

McFarland’s attorney, Susan Walsch, did not respond to a request for comment.

Cover image: Billy McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, leaves federal court after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges, Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

This article originally appeared on VICE News US.