Actually, Mr. McFarland secured some land on Great Exuma just weeks before the festival and hired workers who scrambled to prepare for the event. But as ticket holders arrived, Mr. McFarland’s plans unraveled and the festival was canceled. He also had a celebrity business partner in Fyre Media, the rapper Ja Rule, who posted on social media that he was “heartbroken” about the chaos. But as the authorities began to look into the failed event, they appeared to focus on Mr. McFarland.
From late 2017 until early 2018, Mr. McFarland also ran a company called NYC VIP Access that sold bogus tickets to events like the Met Gala, Coachella, Burning Man and the Super Bowl. In one case, prosecutors said, two customers flew from Florida to New York for the Grammy Awards, only to be turned away at the door.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors had asked for a prison term of at least 11 years. They called Mr. McFarland “the consummate con artist,” adding: “He betrayed and deceived his investors, customers, and employees while he was living the high life at his luxury apartment, traveling to exclusive locales, staying at luxury hotels, being chauffeured in his Maserati, and entertaining himself and his friends at restaurants, bars, and casinos.”
They also accused Mr. McFarland of lacking remorse, citing a line from a report by a forensic psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Levin, who evaluated the defendant. Regarding the VIP Access operations, Dr. Levin wrote: “He did not feel that what he did was wrong.”
John Nemeth, who said that he had lost his life savings of $180,000 by investing it with Mr. McFarland, read a victim impact statement before the sentencing. He called Mr. McFarland “an extremely skilled and convincing liar” and a forger who had “destroyed trust” and deserved “a long prison term.”
Mr. Nemeth said that he and his wife are both in their late 50s and that the loss of their savings ensured that he will be working well into his 70s.