Seth Crossno, an online personality in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, better known as William Needham Finley IV on his social media accounts, and his friend, Mark Thompson, also from Raleigh, have been awarded $5 million in damages in their lawsuit against Billy McFarland. McFarland is facing federal prison charges for luring people to the Bahamas on the premise of a luxurious getaway and event. The rouse included a “residence consisting of four rooms and a living area” on a private island with passes to Fyre Fest and all of their meals covered in the upfront price.
Crossno and Thompson each were awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages for flights, hotels and mental anguish, pain and suffering. Both were also awarded an additional $1 million each in punitive damages. Co-defendant, famous rapper, Ja Rule, was dropped from the initial lawsuit.
The friends paid $13,000 for a trip only to discovered it offered FEMA-style tents surrounding a gravel pit, insufficient hygiene facilities, low-quality food and not enough water to drink. After realizing the event was nowhere near what had been promised to them, the friends decided to leave. However, they were met with trouble getting off the island, as did the thousands of other people to whom McFarland made empty promises.
Stacy Miller, the Raleigh attorney representing Crossno and Thompson, said he and his clients had asked the court to “to send a message to these people who defrauded North Carolina consumers.” McFarland, he said, “created this big event. He lured these young men away from their homes to another country. It was a very dangerous and scary situation.”
“This could be portrayed as a bunch of millennials got scammed,” said Crossno, 33. They were drawn to a fictitious, celebrity-filled festival that was never going to occur. Thompson added, “They obviously spent a great deal of money on their marketing campaign.”
Miller said Crossno and Thompson each were awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages for flights, hotels and mental anguish, pain and suffering. Both men also were awarded an additional $1 million each in punitive damages.
McFarland has also pleaded guilty to two counts of wire and federal prosecutors have recently added more criminal charges. A recent motion filed by federal prosecutors in McFarland’s criminal case indicate he may still have at least $50,000 in cash and a $40,000-per-month income from “freelance work.”
While out on bail awaiting trial, prosecutors alleged McFarland, right away, tried to scam some of the same people again. He supposedly told an employee to contact Frye Festival attendees through a different company name he had created with exclusive offers of tickets to big events such as private celebrity dinners, the 2018 Met Gala, and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. It was all just a scam.
“I’m just happy this is all behind us now,” Thompson said. “It was definitely an interesting situation to be thrust into.” Crossno added that he was going to talk about the incident on an upcoming podcast. He said, “This was more than just a scam. It was fraud that was way over the top.”