In recent weeks, we’ve all had a lot of time to think about what’s really important in life. More than ever, we’re thankful for our health care workers, we’re aware of our own actions, and we’re thinking about the people we love. That’s all great, but did you stop and think about how Billy McFarland is doing? That’s right, even in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s time for an update on our favorite scammer. (Okay, my favorite scammer is probably Elizabeth Holmes, but Billy is second.)
As you may recall, the disgraced Fyre Festival founder is currently serving a six-year prison sentence, after pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud in 2018. Billy is being held at a federal prison in Ohio, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, he wants out. Well, he probably wanted out before, but now he might actually have a chance.
In a filing obtained by The Wrap, Billy McFarland’s attorneys requested that he be allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence under home confinement, rather than in prison. According to the petition, McFarland has pre-existing conditions that put him at higher risk, including asthma, “extreme” allergies, and heart issues “he has experienced since his early 20s.” I’m not saying I don’t believe any of these health issues, but I would like to see a doctor’s note, just to make sure it wasn’t signed by Dr. Ja Rule, MD.
Billy McFarland’s health conditions aside, the situation at his prison facility sound pretty bleak right now. According to his team’s filing, at least 24 inmates and 14 staff members (including the warden) have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The Columbus Dispatch reports that six inmates at the Elkton prison have died from the disease. Furthermore, Billy’s team claims that he is being held in a large room with over 100 inmates, and that “30 of them have gotten sick and been relocated.” Yikes. These are definitely not socially distant conditions, and it’s no wonder coronavirus has become such a big problem in the prison system.
Naturally, Billy McFarland’s petition cites that he is “not a risk for the community nor a threat to public safety,” but I think anyone who tried to attend the Fyre Festival might beg to differ. Sure, he’s not a violent criminal or anything, but we all saw two documentaries about the mass chaos he caused, and just think about what kind of scams he’d try to pull in the midst of a pandemic. Those sh*tty cheese sandwiches were definitely a risk for the community. And you know Billy would be the type to hoard toilet paper to resell it at a markup, at the very least. But all jokes aside, he would have been eligible to transfer to home confinement starting next year, so it seems like he might have a decent case.
The petition for an early release is a marked change from a couple weeks ago, when Billy McFarland told The New York Post that he was “not worried about catching the coronavirus.” At that time, he was working on a project aiming to crowdfund phone calls for “in-need inmates and their families who are affected by coronavirus.” Wow, was Billy actually trying to do something good for others? With no apparent personal gain? They say prison changes people, but this is truly a surprise.
But obviously, sh*t has gotten real in the past few weeks, and Billy McFarland is ready to bounce. I don’t blame him, but I’ll be curious to see if the judge grants him early release. And if he does get out, I’ll be even more curious to see what kind of scheme he cooks up while on house arrest. Maybe a fake retreat for elite influencers in the Hamptons? He’ll probably just do the rest of his sentence at the Magnises loft, so all the hottest up-and-coming people can come party with him. Maybe Elizabeth Holmes will come hang out, and they can work on a coronavirus vaccine together! If that happens, I better f*cking be invited.
Images: Patrick McMullan / Contributor/Getty Images
In 2019, it’s old news that we love a good scamming story. But among the “stars” of this year’s scamming news cycle—Anna Delvey, Billy McFarland, and Elizabeth Holmes, to name a few—there’s one clear similarity. They’re all millennial scammers. Now, our generation has been accused of a lot of things: we’re lazy and entitled, we ruin whole industries, and we simply cannot get enough of avocado toast. But maybe we’ve been dancing around the most damning accusation of all. As stories pile up of outrageous con artists born between 1981 and 1996, I have to ask: are millennials the scammer generation?
If we are, I can hardly say it’s surprising. Growing up, I saw a lot of promises about “the right path” be shattered. Our parents told us that college degrees were non-negotiable if we wanted to get ahead in life (no matter how much debt we incurred), while dropouts like Zuckerberg, Spiegel, and Holmes dominated the landscape of professional success. Then Instagram, and the subsequent world of influencers was born, and the idea of blindly taking the expected steps through life began to seem not just uninspired, but downright stupid. Both types of self-made success—from Silicon Valley CEO to future Bachelor contestants—preached the same ethos. If you work 20 hours a day, abandon everything else in your life, and operate with complete confidence in yourself and your ideas, you will find success.
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I was told by a former business partner that I “lacked work ethic and didn’t know the good opportunity I had in front of me.’ I left anyways because I knew deep down in my heart that SERVITUDE NOT MONEY needed to be my sole focus. Under my breath I said, “WATCH ME.” I logged onto FB to find that I was accidentally included on a group message that a former client (whom I REALLY LIKED) wrote to her husband and son saying,“ OMG Paradise?!!! Hasn’t she taken enough of a beating already? ?” It HURT to know that my co-workers, clients, “friends”, OH AND ENTIRE FUCKING NATION judged me. But I knew that one moment in my life wasn’t going to define me nor keep me from the bright future and impact I was going to make in this world. I thought to myself, “WATCH ME GET THROUGH THIS.” My family was worried, my friends were concerned. I was even hospitalized last November because of the DEBILITATING EFFECTS OF ANXIETY AND FEAR I was facing with the upcoming season of The Bachelor. I had zero income, zero savings and now a $12,000 hospital bill that I chose to ignore because I couldn’t emotionally “deal” and it was sent to collections DAMAGING my credit. No money, no savings, no more good credit. Fear crept it and emotionally I was breaking under the pressure. I wrote down affirmations all over my house on post-it notes that when read made me focus on the SUCCESS I WOULD EARN by focusing on language and actions that made me feel empowered. And then I applied them. See, when others were talking and judging I was working because I knew the bigger picture. So, the next time someone tries to cast doubt on your dreams. Smile to them and think to yourself, “Watch me Mother Fucker.” And then go and get to work. xx
Of course, the path of betting on yourself and taking risks is made a lot easier if you have a trust fund to fall back on—and many millennial success stories did. For those of us too stupid to invent our own companies, too ugly to make it on Instagram, or too poor to consider either option, there was the post-recession job market. There, the cutthroat competition (even for internships!) and the increasingly insane demands of office jobs (be available on Slack 24/7! Be prepared to take over anyone else’s job at any time!) made the glittering vision of those “working for themselves” all the more appealing. And when we’re treated to a constant feed of photos of their glamorous lives, and Twitter updates on their successes, frustration builds.
Enter: the scammer. Like every millennial, they were inundated with images of extraordinary success and luxury, and the message that if they just worked hard enough or really believed in themselves, anything was possible. So, our millennial scammers said to themselves: why couldn’t that be me? They dreamed big: McFarland pitched Fyre Fest; Holmes pitched Theranos; and Delvey pitched, well, herself, as a larger-than-life heiress, and to a lesser degree, a $50m private club on Park Avenue. They ensured that the idea looked good: McFarland unrolled his Insta-model ad campaign; Holmes filled her board with incredibly high-profile businessmen; and Delvey lived in designer clothes and luxury hotels. And whenever they were questioned on details, they pivoted the conversation back to the big picture: an end game so attractive that listeners wanted, desperately, to believe it.
While scammers have always existed, what’s really striking about millennial scammers is how grandiose their visions are, and the extent to which they seem to believe their own lies. If people continue to make millions off Instagram—even though we’ve been shown time and time again how much of Instagram is fake—then it makes sense that millennial scammers assume they can cash in big, even if there’s no reality to back up their vision. People are uninterested in, say, the actual science behind improved diagnostic testing, or the exact location of a music festival’s toilets. Those details would never have attracted the millions they raised—only the fully-formed, visually appealing outcome would. In our image-obsessed culture, with the constant refrain of “if you didn’t post a picture, did it even really happen,” we’re essentially begging to be scammed by grifters like these.
Until we begin to mend the rift between image and reality that social media has created, and the concept of the self-made billionaire is unpacked, we should expect more millennial con artists pitching us beautiful lies. Because we grew up in such a broken economic system, where following the expected steps didn’t get us the results we were promised, it was attractive to believe that anyone could transform into an overnight success. But these millennial scammers have proven that until we start valuing expertise and honesty at the same level as we do a good aesthetic, we’re not providing new opportunities to anyone but those willing to lie their way to the top. Right now, the path to Silicon Valley or Instagram success demands a “fake it ‘til you make it” approach. So really, the question shouldn’t be “why are there so many millennial scammers”. It should be “why aren’t there more?”
Images: @coachkrystal_; @betches / Instagram
On Monday, Apple hosted a major event at its headquarters in California and made some major announcements about upcoming projects. The most exciting was the official reveal of Apple TV+, the new streaming service that is Apple’s direct competitor to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. They announced some enticing new shows, namely The Morning Show, a drama starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell. It debuts this fall, and I’m basically already counting down the days.
But now that I’ve had a few hours to process my excitement about Reese Witherspoon, it’s time to talk about the other huge announcement Apple made on Monday: they’re making a credit card. I have questions, and so should you. It’s called Apple Card, and while Apple is claiming that Apple Card “completely rethinks everything about the credit card,” I’m juuuust a little skeptical. That’s because this all reminds me way too much of Billy McFarland and his legendary Magnises scam.
Someone at Apple must have watched the Fyre Festival documentary and was like, "THAT. MAKE THAT. THE COOL CREDIT CARD."
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) March 25, 2019
Let’s look at some of the features and benefits of the Apple Card, shall we?
On the website for Apple Card, the first thing Apple says is “A new kind of credit card. Created by Apple, not a bank.” Okay, so I’m not going to act like I’m the most financially literate person in the world, but is this supposed to be appealing? I already give Apple like half of my money, so why do I want them to have control of my credit card too? It’s not like banks are the good guy here, but is Apple any better?
Apple then says that the card represents “simplicity, transparency, and privacy,” which are all good words I guess. “It’s the first card that actually encourages you to pay less interest.” These sound like great things, but why does Apple want you to pay them less money? I don’t know about all this financial jargon, but I do know that banks make money off credit cards by charging interest (god, I hope I’m right). But the next line is what really got me:
“You can buy things effortlessly, with just your iPhone. Or use the Apple-designed titanium card anywhere in the world.”
A TITANIUM CARD. I bet it feels nice and hefty in your wallet, just like a Magnises card. People will be impressed by the clanking sound it makes when you slam it down on the counter. Here’s the card that is going to make everyone in the world think you’re a billionaire:
After running down the list of exciting features like Apple Cash (it’s basically just a regular rewards program) and great security (boring), Apple finally gets down to the nitty gritty of why there’s not technically a bank involved.
“Every credit card needs an issuing bank. To create Apple Card, we needed a partner that was up for the challenge of doing something bold and innovative. Enter Goldman Sachs. This is the first consumer credit card they’ve issued, so they were open to doing things in a whole new way.
Ah yes, let’s applaud the incredible bravery of Goldman Sachs, who dared to partner with Apple, the company with the world’s highest market value. They’re really stepping out of their comfort zone, so good for them. I’m not an expert on Goldman Sachs, but their Wikipedia page has a “Controversies and legal issues” section four times as long as this article, so I’m not fully convinced that this is some wonderful, groundbreaking partnership that’s totally safe for consumers.
So that’s a full run-down of what Apple’s website says about their new credit card, but this slide from their presentation yesterday is just asking to be memed.
Apple Card is the new Magnises. pic.twitter.com/rYqkONHqnA
— William Needham Finley IV (@WNFIV) March 25, 2019
No card number! No signature! A West Village townhouse! FREE tickets to the Met Gala!! Beyoncé will definitely perform at your birthday party!!! So far, Apple hasn’t made any promises about concert tickets that are literally impossible to get, but I’m sure that’s coming in Apple Card Series 2.
Apple Card is scheduled for release sometime this summer, and I can’t wait to see how many dumb rich millennials run out and get one on the first day. Lmk in the comments if you plan on getting an Apple Card, because in about three years I might be making a documentary about scams and need your contact info.
Images: Shutterstock; @parkermolloy, @wnfiv / Twitter; Apple
We’re mere months into 2019, and already this year is shaping up to be messier than my IG stories after 12am. If you haven’t been paying attention, then I’m of course referring to the unprecedented amount of scam scandals that have fed
my will to live the media cycle over the past few months. First, the Fyre Festival documentaries dropped, and I’ve never felt more alive than I did watching a bunch of rich millennials resort to looting and petty thievery for a roll of toilet paper. Then Aunt Becky got caught bribing colleges because her daughter wanted to go to frat parties at USC, and now HBO just dropped a new documentary about disgraced CEO/Silicon Valley “It Girl” Elizabeth Holmes. While these scams aren’t a great look for humanity as a whole, let me just tell you, they are GREAT for my Friday night binge-watching. But all of this makes me wonder: is 2019 the year of the scam?
To be fair, most of the aforementioned scams didn’t actually take place in 2019. But while most of these scandals started hitting the news cycle in 2018, we’re seeing the fallout from said scandals right now in the form of bingeable documentaries and docu-series. I guess it’s like the old saying goes: “one person’s
trash catastrophic f*ck-up is another person’s treasure.”
So the question remains: Why is 2019 acting like my ex who texted me “you’re the one who got away,” and then once I responded in kind, followed up with “oops wrong number”, leaving me feeling bamboozled, hoodwinked, and led astray? What is it about this particular year that is making scammers come out of the woodwork left and right?
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Well, I have some theories.
*stands on soap box*
First, I think we have to talk about the giant heeto in the room: our President. Trump’s Presidency opened doors for a lot of sh*t to come out, and I fully believe one of those doors was scamming. I mean, the man was just investigated for scamming the American people out of a democratic election, for god’s sake!! Then there’s the fact that everything that comes out of his mouth and Twitter feed is about as factually accurate as my Outlander fanfic. It’s no wonder people think they can just lie their asses off, cheat people out of money, and not have to answer to any consequences when our own president freely admits he doesn’t pay his taxes (and that’s one of the less illegal things he’s accused of doing).
Take Elizabeth Holmes, for example. For those of you who don’t know who she is, let’s just say her scam is more dramatic than any plotline Shonda Rhimes has ever concocted. Lizzy—I’m going to call her Lizzy from here on out because I know a Lizzy and she’s also a goddamn mess, so this feels fitting—is the disgraced founder and CEO of the biotech company Theranos. Her whole thing was that she claimed to have invented a blood-testing technology that from one “pinprick’s worth of blood” could test for hundreds of diseases simultaneously. This claim made her a casual billionaire, even though her technology DIDN’T EVEN WORK. Sh*t hit the fan for our girl Lizzy when a reporter actually, like, did his job and realized that she was sitting on a literal throne of lies. I mean, what does it matter if this “world-changing” technology works or not as long as you’re making billions, amiright, Lizzy?
the first red flag should have been the name Theranos sounding like a villain in a Captain Marvel movie
— Danny Murphy (@kashmeredanny) March 19, 2019
It’s this sense of bald-faced lying and entitlement that got Lori Loughlin in trouble as well. I think I speak for all of us when I say that the college admissions scandal is the gift that keeps on giving. And by “gift that keeps on giving” I am of course referring to Olivia Jade, Aunt Becky’s daughter and the reason she bribed a college at all.
Look, do I think Aunt Becky went into this scandal thinking, “Well, if the leader of this country can be a scam artist, so can I”? No, I don’t. But I do think there’s this underlying understanding in our country that as long as you’re white and rich, you can get away with a lot, including lying and fraud.
And since my therapist says I can’t blame Trump for everything bad that happens (blergh), I guess we as a collective people have to take some responsibility for all of this. We’ve become a country that prides itself on being ostentatious, outrageous even. The more insane you act, the more followers you get, and then the more sponsorship deals you land and the more money you make.
Nobody understood this philosophy of “acting ostentatious = getting money” better than fake socialite and real scammer Anna Delvey. Through the powers of white privilege, sheer confidence, and determination (and check fraud), she was able to convince Manhattan’s richest millennials that she was one of them. Just by flashing cash here and there, she got people to cover her bills for fancy dinners, parties, and even a $60-grand vacation. Her friends never questioned that she was rich and could pay them back, because she seemed to constantly have cash—until she didn’t. But Anna wasn’t content to just live the high life; she upped the ante even further and tried to start a “foundation” (that was really just a glorified art gallery/Magnises clubhouse). She attempted to raise $25 million for her fake foundation, and she got pretty close! She even got linked up with respected venture capitalists, who vouched for her finances even though they knew next to nothing about her. All they knew was that she wore designer clothes and seemed to know what she was talking about, and they filled in the blanks about her net worth and legitimacy. And she almost got away with it!
To me the craziest thing about this Anna Delvey story is the fact that the Vanity Fair girl had a credit card limit of OVER $60K
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) June 1, 2018
And look at Billy McFarland, the creator of the greatest music festival there never was. Do I think Billy went into Fyre Festival thinking this would all just be one big scam? Maybe not consciously, no. That doesn’t change the fact that he did actually scam people out of a lot of money. Like the chill $2.8 million he’s been ordered to pay back to all the people he duped into showing up at his 2017 Hunger Games. And if you’re thinking to yourself “Well, Billy got what he deserved in the end”, I ask you, did he really? Sure, he got a six-year jail sentence, but he also gained infamy and a prominent feature in a Hulu documentary (which he got paid for), and that, my garbage friends, is priceless. Think about it. The Fyre Festival happened TWO years ago and we’re still talking about it, talking about Billy, who he is and why he is the way he is. And while I don’t think Billy went into Fyre Fest thinking he would gain infamy in quite this way, I do think that quest for fame and likes is what drove some of his actions.
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It’s certainly what drove him to continue scamming people WHILE HE WAS OUT ON BAIL. And you know what? People are eating this sh*t up. They’re buying memorabilia from the festival, using memes of Andy King’s face to lament bad dates, and they’re doing this because they love the scam. It’s hilarious and ridiculous and even though it hurt a lot of people and screwed a lot of people over, we still want to be a part of it. That’s why we will listen to The Dropout podcast and watch the HBO documentaries. It’s why we watched two documentaries on the same topic, and read an article in The Cut that was about 9 days long. It’s because we love a good scam—so long as it’s happening to other people.
So, there you have it. 2019 is officially the Year of the Scam. But the scam year didn’t just happen over night; it’s been years of buildup to get us to where we are today. Trump’s presidency may have opened the door to let people get away with way more sh*t than they would have previously (*cough* white supremacy), but with that came the equal and opposite reaction of calling people out on their sh*t—whether that be your racist uncle at the Thanksgiving table or the people running our country. And you know who we’re especially calling out in 2019? The rich and powerful. With the exception of Elizabeth Holmes, all these scammers were rich and famous or scheming to be rich and famous, so we don’t feel bad for them, not really. In fact, we actively root against them. We don’t want to just watch the mighty fall, we want to watch them crash and burn and then keep the burning carcass of their worst mistakes alive for all eternity in the form of a very shareable meme.
Which brings me to my second point: the media. Ten years ago, if the Fyre Festival—or any of these scandals, for that matter—had happened, it would have been a blip on our radars. Before Instagram and social media and news story roundups sent directly to your phone, I used to get my news from, like, The Today Show. And that’s only because my mother refused to see the merit in letting me watch reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air while I trying to down my Eggos before school! I might have heard about the Lori Loughlin thing, but only if my mom called me up to personally tell me about it. Now, though, it’s impossible not to keep up with these stories. You can watch the Fyre Fest disaster play out in real time, then head over to IG where someone has inevitably made a meme out of someone else’s misfortune. Just when the scandal might die down, bam! Any streaming service suddenly has the rights to the story and has made a movie out of it. And don’t forget the podcasts! My point is, there have definitely been stories about scam artists in the past, but 2019 has amped up the stage for their scams. We’re not just consuming stories anymore, we’re immortalizing them.
So whether the Year of the Scam came to be because of our country’s leadership, the timing of the media, or if it’s just because the American people are flaming piles of garbage who live for messy drama, I can’t definitively say. I can say that if you need me, I’ll be on my couch watching whatever train wreck Netflix recommends to me next. That’s just how the cookie crumbles, people!
Images: @natcpod, @betches / Instagram; @kashmeredanny, @betchesluvthis / Twitter
It’s almost Super Bowl Sunday, and we all know what that means. For most of America, it’s time to throw on your favorite jersey, scream at your TV, and eat your body weight in wings for a few hours. For Georgia businessman Ketan Shah, however, it’s time to pull off a months-long Super Bowl scam, hustling friends and family out of $750K for Super Bowl tickets, and then skipping town. (Hmm, what’s that? A well-to-do businessman taking money from people who trust him for an experience he can’t deliver? Where on earth have we heard that before?)
According to WSBTV2 in Atlanta, Shah owns a digital printing shop and “sits on numerous community boards” in Gwinnett County. He had a “squeaky-clean” business reputation—as all victims of this alleged scam point out—and was generally a well-regarded, active member of the community. Back in November, Shah began collecting payments from these community members, promising them “one hundred level seating,” “access to the concierge lounge and a few pre-parties,” and in one case, “a chance to host an arena Super Bowl event.” Mutual friends and acquaintances started sending Shah down payments, and Shah’s own mother gave him $36,0000. When the time came to deliver on his promises, the victims claim Shah disappeared.
Now, at this point in a normal internet scam, McFarland Shah could’ve just gone dark: stopped responding to emails, blocked all calls, and done his best to make himself untraceable. But since he was literally stealing from friends and family, Shah took it a step further and just f*cking took off, leaving his poor wife, Bhavi, to deal with the consequences. (A woman cleaning up the mess a man created? Where have we heard THAT before?) According to Bhavi Shah, she had no idea her husband was selling Super Bowl tickets. As another fun surprise, Bhavi also discovered after her husband’s disappearance that he had taken out a half-million dollar loan against the business. Wait—you’re telling me this guy is both financially troubled AND a terrible husband? Color me shocked.
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Currently, Bhavi maintains that she has no idea where her husband is, adding that he’s been “roaming all over the town.” Ketan Shah’s family suspects he went to Vegas “as part of a midlife crisis,” but it’s unclear whether he’s there now. Gwinnett County investigators have said “they want to hear his side of the story,” adding that “it’s a very odd situation that you would take people this close to you and scam this kind of money.” I mean, maybe in 2015 it was an unusual situation, but I’d say it’s a growingly popular move nowadays, when 90% of old high school classmates reaching out to you via Facebook are trying to involve you in some kind of pyramid scheme.
Whenever Shah chooses to reappear, the police department seems to have plenty to go on to charge him. His victims have gone to numerous police departments, as well as the FBI, with even Shah’s mother reporting her $36,000 loss to the police. (She didn’t press charges—or anyway, didn’t press charges YET. I’m holding out hope.) In the meantime, his friends and family will be left wondering whether any American businessmen can still be trusted (no). And hopefully, asking themselves why they were ever willing to spend upwards of $20,000 to attend a sporting event. As we dive into this Super Bowl Sunday, let’s all be grateful for not having sons who rob us, and remember to do your research when putting down money for something that sounds too good to be true. In 2019, it probably is.
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Images: tenor; Giphy; girlwithnojob, sodawaterpls / Instagram
Fyre Festival truly is the gift that just keeps on giving. If you had told me that a failed 2017 music festival would be more relevant than ever almost two years later, I would have believed that about as much as I believed that Fyre Media had a legitimate business model. But speaking of, somebody leaked the Fyre Festival pitch deck on LinkedIn, and it’s pretty much just what you would expect from Billy McFarland. There’s a bunch of “fire” puns, and a lot of overblown statistics. In short, it is glorious.
On Thursday, Alvin Hussey uploaded Fyre Media’s pitch deck to LinkedIn, and it reads like a PDF made by a graphic design intern with copy direction coming from a coked-out CEO. So, basically probably exactly what did happen.
The first part of the deck describes Fyre Media and what it does. It opens with such gems as, “Understanding that today’s cohort interacts, engages and follows a new generation of role models who are defining today’s culture, the FYRE platform changes the way how they interact with their fans, followers and brands.” Which is a very longwinded and convoluted way of saying “kids these days do stuff different than the way we did back in our day.”
Then it gets into explaining why the live music industry is “broken”. According to FYRE, “Accessing talent is a mystifying, inefficient and inconsistent process.” Except, no it’s not. If you go on any artist’s Instagram or Facebook, you will find an email for their booking agent. Hell, even everyday hot girls have the contact info of their “booking agents” in their Instagram bios—if anything, accessing talent is even easier today, in the age of social media. It also says, “since launching in May 2016, thousands of offers representing tens of millions of performances and appearances have been made and accepted with Fyre.” We now know this to be a blatant lie.
Then we get to the revenue model, where it says, “Fyre assesses a 10% fee to buyers and does not take a commission from talent on bookings.” Okay, sounds good. It also says, “We also redirect 25% of the Fyre Fee (2.5% of the booking) to talent by way of benefits.” Excuse me if this is dumb, because I do not work in sales, but what does this mean?? What are these so-called benefits? My favorite part, though, is the disclaimer at the bottom, which states, “We take no direct liability for any bookings made with FYRE. Each agreement is between talent and the buyer.” LOLLLL well this explains why literally no artists were confirmed to book Fyre Festival—FYRE didn’t even guarantee their own bookings.
Then we get to the pièce de résistance: Fyre Festival. Over a collage of photos of models and beaches are lain the words, “Come, seek, for searching is the foundation of fortune.” Little did they know that the Fyre Festival attendees would literally be searching—for water, food, and shelter—but I doubt they’re any more fortunate for it! It then says, “What if we reimagined what it means to attend a music festival?” which is just about the understatement of the century. You did deliver on that promise, Billy.
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And then we get into the really crazy part. “Fyre has a unique goal and inspiration: the exploration of the uncharted inspired by and referencing the five elements of the earth.” I’m sorry, what?? You think you’re the first music festival ever to have a theme? That’s it?! THAT’S what would make Fyre Festival this never-before-seen, once-in-a-lifetime experience?? Wow. Just wow.
While I do have the time and volition to go through this entire sh*tty Powerpoint presentation, I don’t think you all want to be here reading for the next 1,000 words. I’ll leave you with one gem: towards the end of the presentation about the festival, after spending like, 3 pages on all the influencers who promoted the festival, is a page containing a flow chart on how FYRE aims to secure sponsors for the festival. Here’s what the page reads:
What kind of Jean-Ralphio Saperstein bullsh*t is this?? This so-called “360 methodology” boils down to: “think of ideas, execute said ideas” with no information as to how said ideas will be executed. Honestly, it’s a metaphor for Fyre Festival as a whole. And with that beautiful symmetry, I leave you to explore this dumpster fyre of a pitch deck on your own.
Images: Alvin Hussey / LinkedIn
Since last year, we knew that both Hulu and Netflix were working on documentaries about one of our favorite scams of all time, the Fyre Festival. Obviously, I was very excited to get an in-depth look at this complete and utter sh*tshow, but I had to wonder, are these movies really both necessary? Netflix announced that theirs would drop on January 18th, so I started to get excited. Then, last week, Hulu proved that it really is a messy b*tch who lives for drama, and dropped theirs three days before Netflix as a surprise. Hulu gets an automatic 10 bonus points just for that level of pettiness.
So because I’m a hardworking journalist (and a fellow messy b*tch who lives for drama), I watched both documentaries, and I’m going to break down some of the differences. First of all, both movies are actually really good. The fundamental story is fascinating, and both Netflix and Hulu did a great job of crafting a narrative that feels informative and fun at the same time. Both have interviews with some key players, including a few of the same people, who are obviously extra hungry for
exposure justice. Oh, and both make Ja Rule look like a total dick. Like, how is his lawyer allowing him to tweet?
Sooo did they have all this food or did they serve cheese sandwiches??? Asking for a friend… https://t.co/kSIqgbtvwS
— Ja Rule (@Ruleyork) January 20, 2019
The thing I liked most about the Hulu documentary, Fyre Fraud, is the amount of backstory it gives us on Billy McFarland. From his credit card company Magnises, all the way back to hacking the computers in elementary school, we get a clear picture of how Billy has always had a compulsion to scam. Part of the reason we get so much of this information is because Fyre Fraud has interviews with Billy. He doesn’t provide that much useful info, other than a lot of red flags to look out for if you think you’re on a date with a sociopath. Because of pending legal action, there are some things he won’t comment on, but he also tells some wild lies, like that they had 250 luxury villas rented, but they lost the box with all the keys. I can’t make this sh*t up. We also get interviews with Billy’s hot Russian girlfriend, who I have some serious questions for.
Fyre, the Netflix movie, has some of the backstory woven in, but it focuses more on what was happening on the ground in the Bahamas. While Billy sat this one out, lots of key members of the Fyre team are interviewed, and you really get a sense of how many people tried to stop this disaster from happening. Basically, Billy didn’t want to hear any negativity, so people either left or got back to work. Heads up: there is one story about a request Billy made of one of his employees that will fully leave your jaw on the floor. Fyre also talks a bit more about the pain Billy & Co. caused for the local residents of the Bahamas, which is truly the most f*cked up part of this story. Some of these people gave everything they had to make this thing a success, but they were just being lied to the entire time.
Overall, Fyre (Netflix) gave me more information to actually understand what happened at Fyre Festival. I’ve always wondered why the whole thing wasn’t just canceled the week before, and I get it now. Both movies do an excellent job of showing how brilliant the influencer-based marketing campaign was, and how it was destined to be a disaster from almost the first minute of planning. If you’re truly interested in this kind of stuff, you really should watch both movies, because they complement each other quite well. If you’re like, busy or something, watch the Netflix one, because it has the Fyre Festival content you’ve been craving the most.
Or if documentaries aren’t really your thing, but you still want the deets on Billy McFarland, listen to the Fyre Festival episode of Not Another True Crime Podcast:
Images: Netflix; @ruleyork / Twitter; Giphy
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I highly doubt he was talking about Fyre Festival there, but still, it applies. Billy McFarland, the guy who is not Ja Rule and was responsible for the disastrous Fyre Festival, was sentenced to six years in prison by a federal judge in New York today. Wait so conning rich influencers out of money by promising them an exclusive VIP island festival, only to send them to a random piece of sand in the Bahamas that’s full of wild dogs and no water, is…illegal? Color me shooketh.
McFarland pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud in connection with the Fyre Festival sh*tshow. If you’ll recall (but also, how could you forget?) the festival had been promoted by social media stars and celebs (*J.Lo* R-U-L-E) as a luxury A-list experience. When they got there, it was less “A-list glamor” and more “cheese sandwiches and FEMA tents.” Ouch. In the public dragging that followed (which we happily participated in), 80 investors lost more than $24 million. You’d think the experience would have made Billy change his scamming ways, but if Joanne has taught us anything, it’s that a scammers gotta scam. It’s in their blood.
While out on bail for his Fyre Festival crimes, Billy attempted to scam more people, this time selling fake VIP tickets to fashion and music events, including the Met Gala, causing at least 30 customers to lose nearly $150,000. (Side note: if you buy your Met Gala tickets on Craigslist, that’s a red flag. Just sayin’. You can’t buy tickets to the Met Gala—that’s literally the entire point of the event.) After Billy’s continued scamming, McFarland pled to additional counts of bank and wire fraud. You know what they say, scam me once, shame on you, scam me twice….you’re going to jail for bank fraud.
During his trial, prosecutors asked for McFarland to get a sentence of 15-20 years, painting him as a “consummate con artist” and the “sole criminal mastermind who ran sophisticated fraudulent schemes for three companies over the course of several years.” Basically, that’s leal speak for “he’s a messy b*tch who lives for drama.” In the end, he was sentenced to only six years. In their final remarks, prosecutors described McFarland as “a profoundly greedy, self absorbed man focused exclusively on himself.” But Fyre Festival wasn’t the first time Billy tried to scam a bunch of rich people. We go into it in this episode of Not Another True Crime Podcast, which you can listen to below.
Which brings me to my final question. Is Billy McFarland…my ex?
If you love scams, cults, conspiracy theories, and true crime, listen to Not Another True Crime Podcast, out now!
Images via Giphy (1)