Fyre Festival Organizer Pleads Not Guilty to Wire Fraud Charges

  • April music extravaganza in Bahamas collapsed into chaos
  • McFarland entered plea on Monday in Manhattan federal court

Billy McFarland leaves federal court after his arraignment, on July 1, 2017, in New York.

Photographer: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland pleaded not guilty to fraud charges stemming from the April event -- dubbed as a luxury music extravaganza in the Bahamas -- that turned into a weekend of chaos.

The festival collapsed with concertgoers finding "luxury" accommodations were actually disaster-relief tents and instead of gourmet food they were fed cheese sandwiches. McFarland was first arrested on June 30 on charges that he defrauded investors who bought a $1.2 million stake in Fyre Media. Authorities said McFarland provided false documents which inflated Fyre’s revenue. He’s free on bail.

McFarland, 25, on Monday appeared in Manhattan federal court where he waived his right to be charged in an indictment returned by a grand jury. Instead, he agreed to plead not guilty to a charging document filed by prosecutors, called an information. He’s charged with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of making false statements to a bank.

That suggests a plea deal may be close. Informations are often used when a defendant makes a deal with the government under which he pleads guilty. Prosecutors said in court documents in August that they were in plea talks with McFarland. His lawyer, Randall Jackson, on Monday declined to comment.

The case is U.S. v. McFarland, 17-mj-04988, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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