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Fyre Festival’s Billy McFarland, Who Previously Sought Money For Prison Venture, Now Wants Out Over COVID-19

Billy McFarland’s lawyers have claimed that his pre-existing health conditions, which include “extreme allergies,” make him more susceptible to catching the coronavirus and experiencing complications from it.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Billy McFarland is the latest incarcerated celebrity to petition for early release amid the coronavirus pandemic and use his fears of contracting COVID-19 as the basis of his request.

The man behind the infamous Fyre Festival is currently serving a six-year sentence at the Elkton federal prison in Ohio, but his lawyers filed a request for compassionate release on Tuesday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Court documents obtained by the outlet claim that the 28-year-old has a number of pre-existing health conditions that “make him particularly vulnerable to catching and suffering from severe or fatal consequences of the virus.” Among those conditions are asthma, which McFarland was diagnosed with as a teenager, “extreme” allergies, and heart issues that he has experienced while serving time, according to the outlet.

The request goes on to state that McFarland would have been up for home confinement in 2021, and points out that his crimes were non-violent in nature, The Wrap reports. They also claim that he is unlikely to commit similar crimes in the future.

“Mr. McFarland is not a risk to the community nor a threat to public safety,” court documents read. “The crime to which he pled guilty for was the non-violent financial crime of wire fraud. However, he is a low risk of recidivism for such financial crimes as he has explained that he has a supportive family that has attested to providing for his basic needs.”

As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, many non-violent offenders have been released in an attempt to tamp down infection rates. To date, 30 staff members at Elkton, where McFarland is serving his time, have been diagnosed with the virus, and six inmates have died, local outlet News 5 Cleveland reports.

McFarland’s attorney Robert J. Hantman addressed McFarland’s recent request in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

“As reflected in his filing and his personal plea to the court, Mr. McFarland hopes to redeem himself and dedicate himself to satisfying his legal obligations,” Hantman said. “This can be done only if he is healthy and alive. Judge Buchwald is a tough, fair and compassionate judge and we are confident that she will look at our request with an open mind.”

McFarland, whose unsuccessful 2017 music festival is the subject of two documentaries, was sentenced to six years in prison in October 2018 after pleading guilty to wire fraud in relation to the notorious festival, NBC News reports. Would-be concertgoers paid to attend a luxury music festival in the Bahamas that was hyped up for months by big-name models and influencers like Kendall Jenner, but upon their arrival, they were met with subpar accommodations and meager food; promised performances did not take place, and scores of locals who’d been hired to work the event were not paid.

McFarland was also charged in relation to a separate ticket-selling scheme that he orchestrated while out on bail for previous charges, according to The New York Times.

However, the famed fraudster has claimed to have turned over a new leaf. Earlier this month he announced his newest project from prison: Project-315, an attempt to raise money to help inmates whose loved ones have been affected by the coronavirus afford phone calls home, according to the New York Post.

McFarland’s plea comes on the heels of the release of rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, who was freed earlier this month and allowed to serve out the rest of his sentence at home after his lawyers, in their request, cited his pre-existing health conditions.

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