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Fyre Festival Organizer Charged With Wire Fraud

Stacey Richman, a lawyer for Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, said that he had not been arrested. “Mr. Atkins is not under arrest and we don’t perceive him to be a subject of this investigation,” Ms. Richman said.


Billy McFarland and Ja Rule in 2016. Ja Rule was Mr. McFarland’s partner in the Fyre Festival.

Chance Yeh/Getty Images

Pitched as a high-end outing for millennials on a pristine Bahamian beach, and hyped by supermodels on Instagram, the Fyre Festival advertised appearances by stars like Blink-182 and Major Lazer, and ticket packages as high as $400,000.

But when guests arrived, they found only makeshift tents and a chaotic scene on a darkened beach. The festival was quickly canceled, and images of Fyre’s breakdown — empty concierge stations, decidedly nongourmet meals — filled social media.

The organizers cited rough weather as one of the factors that doomed Fyre, but in a statement on the festival’s website also admitted, “We were simply in over our heads.”

Yet it eventually became clear that Mr. McFarland, 25, and his team had not made the preparations necessary to stage an event of the scale they had promised. And they had continued to sell tickets and hype the event even as Mr. McFarland’s advisers warned him and Ja Rule that they were heading for disaster.

In the aftermath, millions of dollars’ worth of stage equipment was stuck in customs limbo, and vendors and construction workers in the Bahamas said they were owed thousands of dollars for their work.

According to Friday’s announcement from prosecutors, in 2016 and 2017, Mr. McFarland induced at least two people to invest about $1.2 million in Fyre Media and another entity, using inflated revenue and income numbers. He claimed that Fyre Media had earned millions of dollars from thousands of artist bookings made through Fyre’s system.

“In reality,” the statement said, “Fyre Media earned less than $60,000” during that time.

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