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Fyre Festival Organizer Billy McFarland Says He's Tested Positive For COVID-19 As Fellow Inmate Says They're 'Sitting Ducks'

Billy McFarland had unsuccessfully sought an early release from prison, citing worries that his asthma would make him particularly susceptible to the novel coronavirus' dangerous effects.

By Gina Tron

The man behind the infamously disastrous Fyre Festival has another disaster to worry about – a COVID-19 infection.

Billy McFarland, who is currently serving a six-year sentence for fraud in Ohio’s Elkton Federal Correctional Institution, told the New York Post that he has tested positive for the virus.

“Tested positive for COVID today,” McFarland, 28, told the outlet on Thursday. “Being put in isolation in a big room with 160 other people who have it at this jail.”

His fellow inmate and friend Jebriel, whose last name isn’t being released for privacy reasons, told the New York Post that McFarland is being put into quarantine.

“He’s not dying, I don’t think,” he said. “It feels like we’re sitting ducks in here. They wait until they’re unresponsive to take people to the hospital.”

McFarland unsuccessfully attempted to secure a compassionate release in April, citing his fears of contracting COVID-19. Court documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter in April claimed he has pre-existing health conditions, including asthma, which “make him particularly vulnerable to catching and suffering from severe or fatal consequences of the virus.”  

His request for the early release was denied the same month.

By April, 30 staff members at Elkton were diagnosed with the virus, and six inmates had died, News 5 Cleveland reported at the time. Around the same time, McFarland was asking for donations for a new project he created from behind bars: Project-315, which says it successfully persuaded the Bureau of Prisons to make all phone calls free for inmates so they can connect with their families during the pandemic.

"I legitimately tried to execute the festival, but I clearly made wrong, immoral, and terrible decisions along the way," McFarland notes in a letter included on the project's website.

McFarland was sentenced in 2018 to six years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud in relation to the notorious 2017 Fyre Festival, now the subject of multiple documentaries. The event was advertised as a luxury music festival in the Bahamas, but when concert-goers arrived they found FEMA tents and meager meals instead. McFarland admitted to lying about the Fyre Festival to more than 80 investors, resulting in them losing about $26 million, the Associated Press reported in 2018.

McFarland was also charged in relation to a separate ticket-selling scheme between late 2017 and March of 2018, in which he allegedly sold fraudulent tickets to major events like the Grammy Awards, Burning Man, the Met Gala, Super Bowl and Coachella, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.

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