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)
If there’s anyone brave enough to run another scam after being publicly shamed for the first one, it’s a relatively attractive rich white man in his twenties. After he was arrested last year for the funniest scam of all time, The Fyre Festival, Billy McFarland has gone right back to his old tricks.
The trash-Fyre Fest of 2017 promised elite musical festival-goers luxury villas and gourmet meals on a remote island in The Bahamas in exchange for a thousand dollar plus entry fee. Instead, attendees were met with a yard full of soggy tents, cheese sandwiches and a cancelled schedule of performers all while being high-key trapped on an island. Let us never forget this iconic image of a Fyre Fest gourmet dinner:
The sad, single tomato atop a bed of watery iceberg greens complements an open-faced processed cheese sandwich to create the perfect nightmare for someone who just spent all their savings on the promise of a glamorous dance party on a beach. As far as elaborate scams go, Fyre fest is my absolute favorite and luckily McFarland has blessed us with yet another millennial entertainment disaster.
26-year-old McFarland was re-arrested Tuesday and charged with earning $100,000 for selling fake tickets to elite music, high fashion and sporting events. Through a company he controlled, NYC VIP access, McFarland managed to rip off former attendees of the Fyre Festival yet again. Damn boy, let a wound heal.
His new charges include one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering which could put him in prison for up to forty years if he is convicted. According to Manhattan federal prosecutors, McFarland started the ticketing scheme only months after he defrauded Fyre Fest investors out of 24 million dollars. McFarland, being the millennial Madoff he is, ruthlessly hustled to target attendees of the Fyre Fest with the biggest salaries. He lured them into buying tickets for more exclusive events that were not just bad sandwiches in wet tents, but straight up didn’t exist. He even sold tickets to the 2018 Met Gala! I really hope they didn’t buy a gown.
Prosecutors says they have evidence that McFarland also committed bank fraud and identity theft while out on bail and a magistrate judge ordered him detained on Tuesday. When prosecutor Kristy Greenberg told the judge, “Mr. McFarland is a serial fraudster plain and simple,” McFarland’s lawyer responded, “We vigorously contest what is in this complaint.” McFarland must have lured his lawyer in under the promise of bikini models too because there aren’t enough Kraft single slices in Manhattan to trick anyone into see McFarland as a genuine businessman.
Good luck Billy Boy, hopefully you can run a fun event scheme in prison!
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Ah, the Fyre Festival. Literally the funniest thing to happen to a large group of social media influencers since, well, the advent of social media. We all know the basic story: a group of wealthy influencers were promised a lavish festival experience on a “luxury” island only to arrive to find they had, in fact, been played. Two days, 12 lawsuits, and 150 hilarious Instagrams later, the man behind the Fyre Festival is facing charges of wire fraud, and I’m not talking about Ja Rule.
Nope, I’m talking about Billy McFarland, the IRL Joanne The Scammer who conned Ja and 85 other investors into thinking he could put on a music festival, when in fact he had approximately 0% of the skills or money needed to do so.
Side bar: Poor Ja Rule. All he wanted to do was re-start his career by putting his name on a luxury music festival without doing any research or ever checking in to see that said festival actually existed before selling tickets and sending hundreds of people to a glorified sandbar in the middle of the Bahamas. Is that really so much to ask?
McFarland, whose previous claim to fame was starting a “social black card” called Magnises where people paid $250 annually for “VIP experiences,” was arrested Friday by federal authorities and charged with wire fraud.
Side bar #2: “Magnises” also fell apart, with members complaining that they were “duped” and that many of the “VIP experiences” were cancelled last minute with very slow refund times. So like…did nobody Google this guy before going into business with him? Seems like this could have been easily avoided.
Also, Magnises looks like Penises and is a very dumb name for a company. Moving on…
McFarland was released Saturday on $300,000 bail, which was either paid for with the tears of a thousand Instagram models, or by his parents, who are wealthy New Jersey real estate developers because of-fucking-course they are.
A central part of McFarland’s bail hearing was to figure out exactly how much money the King Fuckboy has. On the one hand, he is currently making payments on a $110,000 Maserati, rents a $21k/month apartment in Manhattan (WHERE THO??), and had $5k in cash on him when he was arrested.
On the other hand, he has to be represented by a public defender because his previous lawyers quit once he stopped being able to pay them.
That’s right, this rich real estate bro who literally made a living scamming rich people by promising luxury experiences is now using a public defender that would normally be reserved for actual poor people who can’t afford lawyers. If only The O.C. were real. Sandy Cohen would never stand for this.
The crux of the case against McFarland (because you sadly can’t charge someone with “obvious fuckery”) is that he lied and defrauded investors in Fyre Media by overstating the company’s income. Prior to the Fyre Festival, Fyre Media’s entire company was a single website that “allowed people to book celebrities for parties and events.” So you know how every once in a while your local club would have Snooki come DJ or some shit? That’s Fyre Media.
Again, did no one look into this man before giving him millions of dollars? Do rich people not know about Google? I’m so confused.
In a criminal complaint unsealed on Friday, the government alleges that McFarland operated a scheme to “defraud investors by drastically overstating the wealth of Fyre Media.” Which, once more for the people in the back, was literally just a website.
The complain also alleges that in one instance, McFarland altered an account statement to say that he owned $2.5 million in a particular company’s stocks, when in fact he only owned around $1,500. Homie isn’t even smooth. All he had to do was lie a little less and say it was $1.5 million and then be like “Omg! Typo! Autocorrect is so crazy…” But I think it’s pretty clear at this point that Billy isn’t really the “thinking ahead” type.
Billy is out on bail now, chilling in NJ with his parents until his preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for July 31st of this year. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison, but he’s also a rich white guy in America so he could end up coming out of this with a cake and negative prison time. We’ll just have to wait and see.
So yeah, you’re gonna want to pre-order a shitload of popcorn because this trial is going to be about as lit as Fyre Festival was supposed to be.
Fyre Festival—aka the DeMario of festivals (or is DeMario the Fyre Festival of people? Hard to say…)—is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s like, if you had told me when I was a child sitting in my living room watching TRL and coveting J Lo’s pink Juicy tracksuit that one day Ja Rule would be behind a scandal that would leave hundreds of social media influencers stranded on an island in The Bahamas I would have said, “What’s social media? Do you mean Friendster? Because I’m not allowed to have Friendster.”
Throughout this entire ordeal, those of us who have loved the Fyre Festival scandal (aka everyone) have had one question on our minds: How much did the organizers know?
Well, according a series of leaked emails obtained by Mic, the Fyre Fest crew actually knew a whole lot. Like that there weren’t enough toilets, for example.
In an urgent April 3rd email sent to festival executives with the subject line “RED FLAG- BATHROOMS/ SHOWER SHIPPING,” staff was alerted to the fact that it was going to cost $400,000 to ship enough toilets and showers to accommodate the 2,500 Instagram personalities already scheduled to arrive at the island.
And if not having enough toilets or showers to keep its guests Instagram-ready wasn’t a problem enough, this lack of toilets followed the news that Fyre Festival’s caterer, Starr Catering Group, had just pulled out.
So, there are no toilets, and there is no food. Welp, as one assistant in the email thread pointed out, at least those two problems cancel each other out:
Hahahahaha! Lol! People are headed to an island without basic resources for survival! Hahaha! That is so funny! Lol! Rofl!
No but actually this is all low-key very funny. I mean, it’s not funny when you’re living in the past and don’t know that this won’t result in literal death, but now that we live in the future and know that nobody died, it is very, very funny.
The next blow to the festival, according to another set leaked emails (TY to Mic for the screenshots—we all owe you one) with the subject “***DO NOT IGNORE*** HOUSING UPDATE & ACTION ITEMS FOR YOU,” alerted senior festival executives to another thing their island didn’t have: enough housing for everyone.
You know an all caps email subject with three asterisks and the phrase “DO NOT IGNORE” is p. serious. Also maybe an indicator that the standard was for Fyre Fest organizers to blatantly ignore this kind of thing. Like, the author of this email clearly had reason to believe that a message simply entitled “housing update” would not get read.
Who care about housing, anyway?
In the email, Marc Weinstein, a senior consultant working on accommodations, worried that a total of 593 people would not have housing when they arrived, just a week before the festival.
Weinstein’s solution? Rent a cruise ship, duh.
He suggested renting a $530,000 ship to house up to 225 people.
So, first off, there is literally no problem to which the solution is “rent a giant boat.” If you’re dealing with a problem, and “rent a giant boat” is the conclusion you come to, take a fucking step back because shit has truly hit the fan in your life.
Secondly, that still doesn’t account for 368 people.
To make up for the discrepancy, Weinstein advocated for the United Airlines method of customer service, aka bumping the 50 lowest paying customers from the first weekend to the second. Cool, yeah. Because everybody can just switch the days their off work, no problem.
Wait, actually, these people are social media influencers, so they probably actually can take off whenever.
The plan now shifted to cutting the lowest 50 paying customers and offering them an upgrade to Villa + Artist Pass status for the next weekend. Sounds like an okay plan, except for one problem. According to an email sent on April 22nd, the villas did not exist. How do we know this? Because the email quite literally says “Of course, these villas don’t exist.”
Where there was housing, the accommodations lacked basic provisions such as toilet paper, soap, and water.
Considering Fyre Festival’s organizers are currently being sued for $100 million, and that these suits allege the festival lacked “food, water, shelter and medical care,” these emails that prove literally every single one of those points are kind of an issue. This is like, the luxury version of going through your boyfriend’s phone and finding the exact texts to the exact hoe that you were worried about. If only this kind of thing always ended in a $100 million lawsuit. I’d be like, Kardashian rich by now.
We all thought the Fyre Festival news couldn’t possibly get any worse, but just like that time a broken vending machine gave you three sodas instead of one, Fyre Festival truly is the
PR disaster gift that keeps on giving. How is that possible, you may ask? (Don’t worry, I asked myself that too—it seems impossible for anyone involved with Fyre Festival to shit the bed even more so than they currently have.) But thankfully for my sense of schadenfreude, Fyre Festival keeps delivering. In today’s news, Fyre Festival employees won’t be getting paid for their work. I think I speak for all of us when I say: hold up, there actually were Fyre Festival employees? Where the hell were they at when people were fighting each other for sleeping arrangements on an island full of stray dogs? Or like, where were they when the festival was being organized in general? And what is this aforementioned “work” for which they seek payment? I saw the tweets. I saw the photos. It was pretty easy to conclude that zero “work” was put into this festival at any point.
Probable frat star and known scammer, Billy McFarland, broke the news via a conference call, because I guess Fyre Media is so broke and illegitimate they can’t even afford a WeWork space. That’s pretty rough. In the phone call obtained by VICE, McFarland said, “We’re not firing anyone; we’re just letting you know that there will be no payroll in the short term.” So like… you’re not firing anyone, you’re just demoting them all to unpaid intern status? Actually, I’m pretty sure being an unpaid intern would be more lucrative at this point, considering internships at least offer college credit and zero chance of being investigated by the FBI.
Employees were upset, obviously, because if McFarland refuses to fire them it means they can’t seek unemployment benefits. Meaning that whether they quit or choose to continue working, they’ll be poor either way. Not to mention, good luck getting a job with Fyre Festival on your resume. It’s what is known in professional circles as being “totally fucked.”
But never fear, because McFarland is not giving up. He told the employees, “I understand that this is not an ideal situation for everybody, and this will likely cause a lot of you to resign, which we totally get and understand. That said, if you want to stick with us, we’d love to have you and we’d love to work together and hunker down and get back to a place where everything resumes to business as usual.” I imagine the immediate response of everyone on the call went a little something like this:
I mean, I think it’s almost cute how Billy still thinks Fyre Festival is going to happen. Dude, give it up. No amount of rebranding or Ja Rule’s participation can save you from this train wreck. Speaking of Ja, our boy was apparently on this call, but reportedly took on a “listener” role. His contribution came in the form of the following quote: “I’m on the phone, but I can barely hear you all because of this fucking hum.” If you weren’t already convinced that Ja Rule was just a patsy who had no part in the (lack of) planning of this fiasco, I think that quote says it all. This is a guy who can’t even figure out how to hang up and dial back into a meeting, or like, go somewhere quiet. There’s no way he could have purposefully sold tickets to an event and knowingly flown a bunch of millennials out to an abandoned island.
Now more than ever, Ja Rule needs our help. Start streaming his music on Spotify, because Billy McFarland is apparently determined to make Fyre Media happen, no matter how many friends he loses or people he leaves dead and bloodied along the way. If we don’t all act now, we could lose one of our favorite washed-up early 2000s rappers. 50 Cent is broke and has been for a while now, Bow Wow is lying about taking commercial flights—at this point if Ja goes bankrupt we’ll only have Nelly. That’s not a world I want to live in.
When news broke that Fyre Festival was really an actual dumpster fire, I was downright gleeful. I think I speak for everyone when I say that there’s nothing funnier than rich millennials and “influencers” getting suckered into blowing a bunch of money on a “luxury festival,” only to find themselves in a situation more similar to a casting call for the next season of Survivor. Anyway, since we
reveled in their collective misfortune found out about this news, this shit has just kept getting worse (or better, if you’re me and you thrive off other people’s misery). First there was Ja Rule and Billy McFarland’s half-assed non-apology (that will serve as the inspiration for all my future non-apologies). Then we found out that Ja Rule was hit with a $100 million lawsuit, which seemed unnecessarily punitive considering there’s no way a man who hasn’t released a song since the mid-2000s is worth that much money. And now, the Fyre Festival drama just got juicier because Fyre Festival is taking legal action against those blasting the festival. So we should probably call the Betches lawyer now… BRB.
Okay, now that that’s done, here’s what has been going down (aside from Ja Rule’s projected net worth, I assume). On Monday TMZ reported that attorneys for Fyre Festival have been sending out cease and desist letters to people dragging the event on social media. Apparently they found one guy who was complaining that his “luxury tents” were actually disaster relief tents that were blowing over. “The lawyers said the statements were untrue and what’s worse, could ‘incite violence, rioting or civil unrest.'” Right, it’s definitely going to be some dude’s tweets about the festival conditions that incite violence and not the fact that people were forced to fight each other for sleeping accommodations because not enough tents were set up.
The lawyers added, “If someone innocent does get hurt as a result Fyre Festival will hold you accountable and responsible.” Pretty sure the only people who got hurt from the social media posts about Fyre Festival were, again, Billy McFarland and Ja Rule. It’s comforting to know, though, that the festival organizers had secured their scapegoat even before they successfully evacuated all the customers off the island. Guess somebody’s gotta take responsibility. So thank you, random Twitter user. I will be sure to direct all future complaints and criticisms towards the guy who exposed this scam for what it was, rather than the people who willingly sent hundreds of millennials to a completely unfurnished island with stray dogs.
What I thought would be a one-day meme has turned into a multi-day fiasco, and I just can’t wait to see how Fyre Festival turns out to be an even bigger shit show than we initially thought. It really is the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you, Ja Rule.
As we all know by now, Ja Rule is in a bit of legal trouble due to the fact that his “luxury music festival” turned out to be turned out to be more of a Lord of The Flies type situation wherein rich millennials were trapped on an island for days with no food or water. And as funny as it was to watch these influencers struggle to come to terms with the fact that they just paid $12k to live in a FEMA tent, we all knew that soon enough these privileged millennials would come home and do exactly what rich white people do best: sue the shit out of everyone involved.
Yesterday Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, the Fyre Festival “organizers” (can you be called an organizer if you failed to organize anything?) were slapped with a $100 million dollar lawsuit alleging the festival “fell dramatically short of even the most modest expectations.”
Way harsh, Tai! But also like, 100% fair and accurate.
So like, let’s say this lawsuit is successful—and it probably will be given the fact that the festival was advertised as a luxury weekend away with models and turned out to be a 48 hour nightmare with feral dogs—wtf is Ja Rule gonna do? Does he even have a million dollars at this point, let alone a HUNDRED million? I mean, how much did he get for that Hamilton Mixtape track? Will the Fyre Festival really be the end of Murder Inc?
Not necessarily! You, yes you, can help to save Ja Rule from bankruptcy, and by proxy allow Ashanti to work another day. And all it’ll take is $9.99 for a Spotify Premium subscription. Then all you have to do is listen to Ja Rule, and only Ja Rule, and he’ll collect the royalties.
Let’s break down just how much Ja Rule you’d have to listen to in order to pay off his legal fees. So, according to Spotify, artists make between $.006 and $.0084 every time a person streams one of their songs. Let’s assume that Ja is making the upper half of that, because he’s like, fairly famous. In order to earn him $100 million, you would have to:
1. Listen to “Mezmerize” 11,904,761,904 times.
For those of you not used to such large numbers, that’s eleven billion, nine hundred four million, seven hundred sixty one thousand, nine hundred and four times.
But if listening to the same song over one billion times isn’t your style, you could always…
2. Listen to his highest selling album, Pain Is Love, 744,047,619 times.
OR if you want to make sure you get all the good stuff (aka the stuff with Ashanti) you could always mix it up and…
3. Listen to all 17 of his singles 700,280,112 times.
OR, if you’ve got a low attention span and really love Ja Rule you could always:
4. Listen to Ja Rule’s entire discography 104,160,000 times.
So get listening guys! This is going to take 3 billion minutes to complete.
And just in case you’re not convinced that Ja Rule is just a patsy who lent his name and maybe a check to this festival and had no involvement in the actual planning of it because he was just roped into this mess—and is therefore extremely worthy of saving—look no further than the following gif for evidence:
SAVE JA. It’s on all of us. That is all.