Greek-American William McFarland Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court

FILE - In this March 6, 2018 file photo, Billy McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, leaves federal court after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges in New York.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW YORK – Greek-American William (Billy) McFarland plead guilty on July 26 in Manhattan Federal Court to engaging in a fraudulent ticket scam, committing bank fraud, and making false statements to a federal law enforcement agent.

McFarland, the son of Renee (Irene) Zervakos and Steve McFarland, grew up in the Greek Orthodox Parish of Holy Trinity in Westfield, NJ and was raised in a privileged environment, attending private schools. McFarland was named for his grandfather Bill (Vasilis) Zervakos who owned the Arcadia Florist in Newark for many years.

McFarland, while awaiting sentencing for defrauding investors of Fyre Media Inc. and Fyre Festival LLC, made false representations to customers of NYC VIP Access, business associates, and federal law enforcement, according to the statement released by the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York.

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, made the announcement that McFarland pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, in connection with his operation of a sham ticket scheme in which he purported to sell tickets to exclusive fashion, music, and sporting events though NYC VIP Access, a company controlled by McFarland. McFarland also pled guilty to one count of bank fraud for writing a check with the name and account number of one of his employees without authorization, and one count of making false statements to a federal law enforcement agent in which he, among other things, falsely denied the wire fraud and bank fraud conduct to which he now has pled guilty.

McFarland pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald. During the plea proceeding, McFarland affirmed his previously entered guilty plea to one count of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud investors in a company controlled by McFarland, Fyre Media Inc. (“Fyre Media”), as well as its subsidiary (“Fyre Festival LLC”), which was formed to hold a music festival over two weekends in the Bahamas. McFarland also affirmed his previously entered guilty plea to one count of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud a ticket vendor for the Fyre Festival. Sentencing is scheduled for September 17 at 3:30 PM before Judge Buchwald.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Berman said: “William ‘Billy’ McFarland, CEO of Fyre Media, previously pled guilty to defrauding investors of Fyre Media and the infamous Fyre Festival and a ticket vendor of over $26 million. While that fraud case was pending, McFarland engaged in yet another scam, purporting to sell tickets through a company called NYC VIP Access to exclusive events, such as the 2018 Met Gala, Burning Man 2018, Coachella 2018, the 2018 Grammy Awards, and the Super Bowl. McFarland concealed his association with NYC VIP Access so that he could solicit customers of Fyre Festival and his other company Magnises to buy tickets without raising suspicion. These customers later learned that the tickets didn’t exist, and that this was just another fraud in McFarland’s disturbing pattern of deception. McFarland’s fraudulent schemes cost real people real money, and now he faces real time in federal prison for his crimes.”

According to the statement: McFarland, 26, of New York, New York, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud while on pretrial release, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, one count of bank fraud while on pretrial release, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, and one count of making false statements, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. McFarland also affirmed his previously entered guilty plea to two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. In connection with his previously entered plea, McFarland agreed to forfeit $26,040,099.48. In connection with today’s guilty plea, McFarland agreed to forfeit an additional $151,206.80.

The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by Judge Buchwald.

Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the FBI’s New York Field Office.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United State Attorney Kristy J. Greenberg is in charge of the prosecution.