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Lawyers for Fyre Festival Organizer, Billy McFarland, Cite Bipolar Disorder, ADHD for Fraud Crimes

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In spring 2017, the Fyre Festival sounded like it’d be the next big thing in music festivals. Instead, it arguably became the biggest scam in the festival world. Though Billy McFarland, Fyre’s organizer, pled guilty to defrauding festival vendors and investors, his lawyer is citing untreated mental illnesses as the reason for his scams, Buzzfeed reports.

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McFarland’s lawyer is asking for leniency in his sentencing because of his mental illnesses, which consist of a “bipolar-related disorder,” ADHD and alcohol abuse. According to his lawyer, these untreated disorders led to “delusional beliefs of having special and unique talents that will lead to fame and fortune.”

The 26-year-old was arrested in June 2017 and admitted to defrauding over 100 investors out of $27.4 million. The investors had given money to McFarland’s businesses, Fyre Media, Inc., Fyre Festival LLC, and Magnises, Inc.

The SEC said he “fraudulently inflated” financial numbers and successes of his companies and doctored statements that showed he had stock holdings of over $2.5 million. His shares were actually worth under $1,500.

“McFarland used investor funds to bankroll a lavish lifestyle including living in a Manhattan penthouse apartment, partying with celebrities, and traveling by private plane and chauffeured luxury cars,” SEC said in its statement.

McFarland pleaded guilty to separate charges of fraud after selling fake tickets during summer 2018 to high-profile events like the Grammy Awards and the Met Gala, according to Buzzfeed. The tickets totaled over $100,000.

In the court documents, psychiatrists reported that McFarland was experiencing mania or hypomania, which affected his ability to see the consequences of his actions.

“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,” Randall Jackson, McFarland’s lawyer, wrote to US District Judge Naomi Buchwald Friday.

The Fyre Festival was advertised as a festival on a private island in the Bahamas that would take place over two weekends. Celebrities like Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin promoted the event on social media, according to Business Insider. Tickets sold for $1,200 and were supposed to cover gourmet food and performances from bands like Blink-182.

Instead of gourmet food, people received cheese sandwiches and salads. Blink-182 backed out after worries they wouldn’t have what they needed to perform.

McFarland will be sentenced Oct. 11. and could face over a decade in prison, the Associated Press reports.

Photos via Twitter

Originally published: September 27, 2018
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