Inside Billy McFarland's Life Behind Bars

During the famed "Summer of Scam" in 2018, Billy McFarland's scheme was the crème de la crème for rubberneckers and tabloids, alike. Even now, it's considered one of the biggest cons of all time. Maybe you've heard of it? Fyre Festival, which was a failed music festival that was set to take place on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma, was McFarland's brain child.

Fyre Festival was promoted on Instagram as a luxurious, tropical fantasy festooned with celebrities. However, in reality, the so-called festival cheated thousands of concert-goers out of thousands of dollars, per CNBC, leaving them stranded in a place that had no infrastructure for the influx of people that descended upon the island. It ruined the lives — and economy — of Great Exuma's population for years to come.

It's hardly an exaggeration to say that it was a story that had everything: Instagram influencers, island getaways, models, FEMA tents, spoiled millennials that emphasized the worst of what the stereotype suggests, get-rich-quick schemes, schadenfreude, and even rapper Ja Rule.

In October 2018, McFarland was sentenced to six years behind bars, per The New York Times. That being said, the earliest he'll be released is in 2024. However, that doesn't mean that the failed concert promoter hasn't been up to his old tricks — or even some new ones. So what has McFarland been doing during his time in prison?

Billy McFarland is still busy behind bars

Since landing behind bars, rumors have swirled that Billy McFarland is planning his big comeback. According to GQ, in 2019, the failed entrepreneur and huckster was purportedly writing a memoir titled Promythus: The God of Fyre (yes, that's the real title), which he claimed would tell the real story behind the Fyre Festival fraud. He also claimed that two separate documentaries on the subject, released by Netflix and Hulu, respectively, did not correctly portray what happened — despite the fact that McFarland has reportedly never seen either documentary.

Unfortunately for McFarland, things didn't go quite as planned — according to the New York Post, the would-be author was thrown into solitary confinement for three months after it was discovered that he had smuggled in a USB drive to aid him in writing his tell-all. After serving out his time in solitary in Otisville, New York, he was then transferred to Elkton Federal Correctional Institution in Lisbon, Ohio.

Billy McFarland: a comeback con or a new man?

Along with fellow fraudster Martin Shkreli, it looks like Billy McFarland is also using the novel coronavirus as an excuse to launch another project. According to the New York Post, the former CEO has developed a crowdfunding campaign to enable prison inmates to contact their nearest and dearest via phone in the wake of visitation cancellations to stop the spread of Covid-19. "We're going to pay for calls for as many incarcerated people across the country as possible," he told the Post at the time.

McFarland has since launched a site for Project-315 and has made sure to let the denizens of the Internet know that while some might be quick to think it's yet another scam amongst a litany of past frauds, this time, McFarland is for real — maybe. "I lied, deceived, and ultimately hurt many people in pursuit of what I thought would be successful business ventures," the former Fyre Festival honcho wrote of his past crimes in a letter on the Project-315 site.

"If I were you, I'd think this is a scam, and that I am full of s**t," he continued. "I'd also question anything I read that tried to convince me otherwise. So, instead of saying that Project-315 is very real, and the people we're trying to help are truly suffering and experiencing pain, I'm going to tell you why I'm doing it..."

Is Billy McFarland truly reformed?

According to an Instagram account purportedly run by Billy McFarland's team on the outside, the philanthropic initiative might have already achieved it's desired results. On April 9, 2020, a celebratory message was posted on the social media platform approximately one week after Project-315's launch, stating that the initiative had completed its goal and that inmates in the U.S. would now be able to contact their loved ones for free — at least for the duration of the pandemic.

"Breaking: WE DID IT! In an unprecedented & sweeping move, the Bureau of Prisons has agreed to make phone calls free for ALL incarcerated loved ones & their families during Covid19," the post read. "We started Project-315 with the goal of helping connect & bring together as many families possible."

The post also assured that "all third party donations will be returned" to donors. However, as of this writing, there has been no confirmation that the donations have been returned.

Only time will tell if McFarland has truly reformed. Additionally, considering the current crisis in prisons across the nation, let's hope that his latest project isn't yet another fire to put out.