Meet the 25-Year-Old Grifter Behind the Fyre Festival Disaster

The Fyre Festival left young concertgoers stranded and hungry on an island in the Bahamas, and this isn't the first time its organizer has run an elaborate scam on his affluent clients. As Complex producer Tamara Dhia explains, 25-year-old Billy McFarland has made a career of bilking the rich.


"Since the age of 13, Billy McFarland has been about that business," Dhia says of the ambitious entrepreneur, who was working on his first company before even starting high school. 

At 19, the Short Hills, New Jersey native dropped out of college to found Spling. The $40,000 content-sharing network then led McFarland to Magnises, his next venture, in 2014. It's "basically an American Express black card for millennials who want exclusive access to clubs, restaurants and elite brands," Dhia noted. 

McFarland describes the card as a "community-oriented payment tool that provides guidance access and experiences to a wide variety of lifestyle services and brands across the city."  

"Sounds reasonable," assessed Dhia, "until you read the fine print. For a $250 annual fee, Magnises members were required to spend $250K a year to get these perks." Worse, Magnises "started dropping the ball [as in] flat-out failing to provide everything from Hamilton tickets to plane rides to the Hamptons to card holders."

In 2015, the New York Post reported that McFarland was being sued for turning his $13,000-a-month duplex in the West Village into an "Animal House," incurring $100,000 in damages.

According to Rolling Stone, McFarland, now facing a $100 million lawsuit, called the luxury music festival-turned-Hunger Games event "the toughest day" of his life. 

He said he plans on throwing a free makeup event in May 2018 for anyone who bought a ticket to this year's festival. 

"Hey, if you want to risk another catastrophe that's on you," concluded Dhia.

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