Home Culture Culture News

Grifters Be Grifting: Fyre Festival Organizer Allegedly Scammed by Pseudo Socialite

By the time Billy McFarland was putting on the doomed 2017 island festival, he’d reportedly already had a run-in with another alleged grifter, Anna Delvey, who passed herself off as a German heiress

Billy McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, leaves federal court after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges, Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in New York. He faces a sentence of 8 to 10 years. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Billy McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival, leaves federal court after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges last March.

Mark Lennihan/AP

Years before Billy McFarland defrauded investors and abandoned $1,000-ticket holders by canceling his “luxury” music festival at the last minute, the Fyre Festival founder was apparently taken for a ride by another recent addition to the Scammer Hall of Fame. According to the New York Post’s Page Six, back in 2013, wannabe German heiress “Anna Delvey” finagled her way into the SoHo headquarters of McFarland’s credit-card company, Magnises – and then refused to leave, squatting rent-free for a total of four months.

“Anna knew people on Billy’s team,” an “insider” told Page Six. “She just asked to stay for a few days … then she wouldn’t leave.” (The Post wrote that lawyers for both sides did not comment.)

Four years later, in 2017, Delvey would be identified as Russian-born Anna Sorokin, after she was exposed for allegedly pulling a similar scam at multiple luxury hotels and bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars out of banks, businesses and friends. (She has pleaded not guilty on charges of grand larceny and theft of services.)

McFarland and his circle were also apparently bamboozled by Sorokin’s wealthy socialite act, which largely involved being a name-dropping, designer-clad, credit-card-wielding fixture at all the elite downtown parties, including those held at Magnises’ loft.

“She hung out and went to the parties,” said Page Six’s source. “She was there, just sitting there – all the time.”

This fake-it-til-you-make-it routine won Sorokin the type of trust only the rich and well-connected enjoy – the freedom to thoughtlessly rack up massive amounts of debt on the assumption that status means you’re good for it eventually. Sorokin was able to stay at the posh Beekman hotel for two weeks in June 2017, accruing more than $11K in room and incidental charges, before skipping out on the bill. A few months before that, she allegedly scammed over a month at 11 Howard, another pricey boutique hotel, her unpaid charges were nearly three times as much.

Anna DelveyDinner celebrating Spring Summer 2014, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, New York, America - 11 Sep 2013

Anna Delvey at a Fashion Week party in 2013.

While the average hotel puts a hold on a guests’ credit card at check-in, Sorokin breezed into 11 Howard without handing anything over. As New York magazine put it, as a “very valued guest” who was staying for “such an unusually long time,” the hotel made an exception for Sorokin and agreed to let her pay by wire transfer. When the money still hadn’t arrived after a month-and-a-half, the hotel broached the subject of Sorokin’s $30K unpaid bill almost apologetically.

According to Page Six’s source, McFarland had a similarly non-confrontational approach when the couch crashing girl-about-town overstayed her welcome. Rather than telling the deadbeat debutante to scram, McFarland moved his company to another location, though it’s doubtful that he would have employed a similar tactic for a real homeless person without Sorokin’s designer accessories.

“He hinted, the staff hinted,” the source told Page Six. “She had Balenciaga bags and clothes everywhere. The company wound up moving into a townhouse. That’s the only way they got her out! She had been there for four months!”

Fast-forward to April 2017 – while Sorokin was slinking between high-end hotels, McFarland was avoiding another confrontation. McFarland’s Fyre Festival, a multi-weekend music event in the Bahamas hyped by social media influencers like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, had been “indefinitely postponed” after the inaugural weekend proved to be a complete and total disaster. McFarland bailed after many guests had already arrived to discover that the luxury accommodations and gourmet meals that were supposed to come with their multi-thousand dollar tickets were actually just tents and pre-made sandwiches. He and his fellow organizers are now facing eight civil lawsuits (including one settled earlier this month for $5 million) and McFarland has also pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud to defraud investors and a second count to defraud a ticket vendor. He has not yet been sentenced.

Sorokin, meanwhile, has traded five-star hotels for an indefinite stay on Rikers Island, where she awaits her own day in court. She rejected a plea deal in January, and faces up to 15 years if convicted.

Show Comments

Newswire

Powered by
Close comments

Add a comment