The lead organizer of the infamous failed 2017 Fyre festival will immediately begin new ventures in the entertainment industry after being released early from federal prison on Wednesday, according to his attorney.
Billy McFarland, 30, “has put together a team of professionals to brainstorm and come up with ideas in entertainment and other avenues to generate income”, ostensibly to pay back the $26m he was ordered to reimburse his Fyre festival investors after pleading guilty to defrauding them, said his lawyer, Jason Russo.
“His sole priority and focus is how can he make these people whole and get their money back for them,” Russo added. “That’s what he’s been focusing on.”
A judge sentenced McFarland to six years in prison in 2018. He had been serving his time at a federal prison in Milan, Michigan, receiving what his lawyer said was the standard year of credit for every 10 months he spent behind bars.
He was released on Wednesday into a halfway home run by federal officials in New York, according to a US Bureau of Prisons spokesperson. He is scheduled to stay there until 30 August.
Federal halfway house residents are generally required to find a job, and may be allowed to drive or use a cellphone for employment purposes. They can also get a four-hour recreational pass for weekends and can ultimately be moved from the group halfway house to confinement at their private residence.
Russo said his client was “relieved to be out and be done with the incarceration part of his sentence”.
“Billy is looking forward to reuniting with and seeing his family and truly just focusing on his efforts to get this enormous amount of restitution paid,” Russo said.
McFarland has insisted that he planned to organize a legitimate event when he started the Fyre festival, which began as a promotional vehicle for a digital application he launched in May 2016 to help promoters directly book musicians for concerts.
Before long, McFarland was pitching the festival as an ultra-luxurious bash in the Bahamas, on the island of Exuma, over two weekends in April and May of 2017. Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and other supermodels and celebrities promoted the festival, hawking ticket packages ranging from $1,200 to more than $100,000.
Attendees were told Blink-182, Migos and other musical acts would be there, but when they arrived on the island they learned the concerts had been canceled, and instead of the gourmet meals and five-star villas they were promised they found leaky disaster relief tents, cheese sandwiches and portable toilets.
The disaster was shared widely on social media using the hashtag #fyrefraud and was soon profiled in documentaries released by Netflix and Hulu.
McFarland pleaded guilty in 2018 to wire fraud charges, admitting that he lied to investors and sent false documents to maintain the ruse.
McFarland’s time in prison was not without hiccups. He was sent to solitary confinement after participating in a podcast, Dumpster Fyre, about his botched festival.
Separately, the festival’s lead organizers have agreed to pay about $7,200 each to nearly 280 ticket holders who filed a class-action lawsuit.