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A lawyer for the Fyre Fest founder says mental health issues led client to commit fraud
Billy McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, leaves federal court after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges in March. Mark Lennihan/AP

A lawyer for Billy McFarland, the promoter currently awaiting sentencing for his role in organizing the epically messy Frye Festival back in 2017, is now claiming that mental health issues caused his client to defraud his investors and vendors out of millions of dollars, BuzzFeed News reported on Monday.

In a letter to the judge who will hand down McFarland’s sentence for fraud, an attorney for McFarland said that his client had been diagnosed with “’bipolar related disorder,’ ADHD and alcohol abuse,” which led him to have “delusional beliefs of having special and unique talents that will lead to fame and fortune.”

In case you need a refresher, Fyre Fest was billed as a luxury, Instagram-worthy, Cochella-esque music festival in the Bahamas. Some guests shelled out thousands of dollars to attend the festival — but when they showed up on the island where it was supposed to take place, festival-goers found a chaotic scene.

Instead of the “modern, eco-friendly, geodesic domes” they were promised, they found “white emergency-relief tents,” meager meals instead of high-quality catering and a disorganized “free-for-all” during which people dragged mattresses across the sand, one attendee told the New Yorker.

Billy McFarland leaves federal court after his arraignment in New York on Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Billy McFarland leaves federal court after his arraignment in New York on Saturday, July 1, 2017. Mary Altaffer/AP

McFarland pled guilty in March to charges of wire fraud — then in June he was charged with additional charges for his involvement in a “sham ticket-selling business.”

In his letter to U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald, McFarland’s attorney, Randall Jackson, asked for leniency for his client, citing evaluations from two psychiatrists. “Nothing in this case speaks to any malicious intent on his part, just a sea of bad judgment, poor decisions, and the type of core instability that can only be explained by mental illness,” he said. McFarland is scheduled to be sentenced in October. He faces up to 14 years in prison.