McFarland, 25, was charged in connection with a scheme to defraud investors, which included misrepresenting financial information about his company, Fyre Media.
The ultra-luxurious music event in the Bahamas collapsed in April, leaving hundreds of festival goers stranded without proper accommodations, electricity and “barely any food.”
Joon H. Kim, the Acting U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, said in a statement, “McFarland promised a ‘life changing’ music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster. McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival. Thanks to the investigative efforts of the FBI, McFarland will now have to answer for his crimes.”
The Fyre Festival was billed as the next Coachella — set over “two transformative weekends” on the private Bahaman island of Fyre Cay. Created by Ja Rule and McFarland, tickets for the event ranged from $4,000 to upwards of $250,000 (for a VIP package split between 12 people).
Kendall Jenner and a series of flashy Instagram videos helped announce the event, with images of clear blue waters, yachts, private planes, and models Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski traipsing around in bikinis.
Performances from Blink 182, Rae Sremmurd, Skepta to G.O.O.D. Music acts Desiigner, Tyga, and Pusha T were expected.
While festival-goers were expecting luxurious villas and spectacular musical performances, the reality was much different. Those who arrived on the island were met with complete disorganization and sub-standard living conditions that were far from ready.
Luggage was handed to passengers from the back of storage trucks in the dark. Tents — which included bare mattresses — were not set up, many blowing over in the wind. Latrines were unavailable. Reports of theft ran rampant.
McFarland told Rolling Stone after the chaos that the island “didn’t have a really great infrastructure — there wasn’t a great way to get guests in here — we were a little bit ambitious.”
“There wasn’t water or sewage,” he continued. “It was almost like we tried building a city out of nothing and it took almost all of our personal resources to make this happen, and everything we had, to make this festival go on. We thought we were ready and built two different festival sites.”
Later, in a statement on the festival’s website, the organizer’s admitted, “We were simply in over our heads.”
McFarland could face up to 20 years in prison.