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Manhattan man who promoted Bahamas concert fiasco sentenced to six years

William McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre

William McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival, leaves federal court in Manhattan on March 6. Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan

William McFarland, the serial fraudster who promoted last year’s Fyre Festival concert fiasco on an island in the Bahamas, was sentenced to six years in prison on Thursday by a Manhattan federal judge for scamming investors.

McFarland, 26, of Manhattan, had pleaded guilty to frauds totaling $26 million in separate schemes that ripped off investors in the business that put on the failed music festival for millennials, and later in a ticket resale con while he was out on bail on the Fyre Festival charges.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison, the same term called for by advisory federal sentencing guidelines.

McFarland, whose lawyers asked for leniency because he suffers from a bi-polar disorder and alcohol abuse, apologized to U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald before he was sentenced. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m deeply sorry for my mistakes.”

“I made decisions that were a slap in the face to everything my family tried to teach me,” he said.

The Fyre Festival last year left attendees stranded on Exhuma, a poorly provisioned Caribbean island. Prosecutors say while luring concertgoers to the poorly organized event, McFarland had made misleading statements to investors about the concert’s prospects and other matters.

While ripping off investors and customers, the government said, he diverted their money into his own lifestyle — spending $115,000 over a year for luxury apartment rentals, riding in a chauffeured Maserati, staying at high-end hotels in Las Vegas and the Hamptons and spending $41,000 on clothes.

“Today, McFarland found out the hard way that empty promises don’t lead to jet-setting, Champagne, and extravagant parties — they lead to federal prison,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman after the sentencing.

McFarland pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud, bank fraud, and making false statements to the FBI. In addition to his prison sentence, he was ordered to forfeit $26,191,306.

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