Fresh out of four years in prison, banned from serving as a director of a public company, and buried under $26 million in victim payments, Billy McFarland, founder of the fraudulent Fyre Festival, wants to come back.

“I was talking to someone yesterday and they said, ‘You can either go down a hole and die, or you can try to do something and not promise any results,’” McFarland said in a recent interview with NBC News.

It was basically the promises they made to him last time. McFarland went from shadowy New York City businessman to world-renowned con artist after the collapse of his festival became a cultural moment: an event promoted on social media by high-profile models and celebrities promising to too much of a Coachella for the Bahamas with luxury villas and decadent dishes. Instead, the festival imploded, leaving many assistants in FEMA tents and eating packaged sandwiches, and none of the promised entertainment. attendees desperate posts went viraland the disaster spawned two documentaries and dozens of podcasts.

In October 2018, McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud.

His new venture, PYRT (pronounced «Pirate»), launched on social media in October and is supposed to kick off by staging, yes, a remote island extravaganza, one that McFarland insists is not a festival. . Featuring a host of influencers and creators, the purported tropical experience will include virtual reality technology that the company says will allow users to participate in and control what’s happening on the island in real time from home.

If that sounds familiar, some are already ringing the Fyre alarm bells. NBC News spoke to two of McFarland’s former partners who were wary that his new venture already showed similarities to previous ones.

Billy is still Billy. He is using different words, but he is selling the same thing,” said Shiyuan Deng, a former product designer at Fyre Media, the company behind Fyre Festival. Deng resigned from Fyre Media shortly before it collapsed.

Another former Fyre Media employee who asked to be withheld for fear of retaliation also said that PYRT reminded them of the Fyre Festival.

“The similarities exist around the vague and mysterious promotion,” said the former Fyre Media employee. “PYRT appears to be an exercise in smoke and mirrors, buzzwords, and empty promises of luxurious Bahamas trips,” they said.

«As a former employee who has relied on Billy’s leadership in the past, new clients, investors and employees should proceed with caution,» they said.

McFarland joins a wave of celebrity con artists who are in the process of making a comeback in part by cashing in on their notoriety. Socialite con artist Anna Sorkin, who was the subject of a Netflix drama that portrayed her ripping off banks and robbing a private plane for which she was convicted multiple times on multiple counts of grand theft, released a collection of NFTs while serving time. in an ICE detention center and recently announced a series of monthly dinners, according to Eater, he hosted a dozen famous and influential VIP guests outside his apartment while under house arrest. Kari Farrell, who was labeled the «hipster con artist» for a variety of scams and frauds including writing fake checksIt is also on the way back.

McFarland’s new venture has already garnered a lot of attention, with articles in The New York Times Y vanity fair. He said that this time he is trying to temper expectations and the way he markets his new venture, even though PYRT’s online promotion contains global treasure hunts and luxury images of the Bahamas. Although he has vowed to try to change his ways, McFarland has still at times sought to build excitement around his new endeavor.

“This time, it’s a little crazier but way bigger than anything I’ve ever tried before,” McFarland said in a TikTok video from October.

McFarland said that he thinks PYRT will look considerably different than Fyre Festival. There is no urgent timetable, no contribution from outside investors and the intention to host only dozens on the island at a time, he said.

It’s still unclear which island that will be, despite a strong push from McFarland to return to the Bahamas, where he ripped off the islanders in 2017.

In McFarland’s October launch video, he underlined the word «Bahama» on a map of the Caribbean taped to a whiteboard that read, «I’m working on something new.»

A couple of weeks later, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism said in a statement that McFarland had not submitted any applications for an event in the Bahamas. The statement, verified by NBC News, listed him as a «fugitive» and asked that his whereabouts be reported to the national police. It did not detail any charges against McFarland.

“The Government of The Bahamas will not endorse or approve any event in The Bahamas associated with it,” the statement added.

Not long after that, McFarland once again posted on TikTok with a map of the Bahamas as his backdrop, pointing to an island and calling it one of his favorites in the Exumas and noting that PYRT was open to other destinations as well.

Despite the videos he posted, McFarland told NBC News there are currently no plans for PYRT to be in the Bahamas. He said that he believes that the relationship with the island nation can be fixed.

“I think once everyone has been paid, I would love to have a conversation to see if that relationship can be mended,” he said.

When pressed about the contradiction between his TikTok video and the interview’s claim about lowering expectations, McFarland said the specific criticism was fair.

“It’s still a journey for me and I’m not perfect in terms of marketing,” he said.

McFarland said he has taken on various consulting assignments focused on marketing and branding for startups, serving as a source of funding for PYRT, along with his newly launched Cameo account, merchandise sales and stock footage sales for an upcoming documentary focusing on McFarland’s next move, «After the Fyre.»

The similarities between Fyre and PYRT so far are remarkable, and after dodging a question to clarify the difference, McFarland argued that he has time on his side this round.

“My answer is that there is no rush,” McFarland said. “And I’ve had four or five years to really understand what I suck at and try to get help there,” he said.

Since McFarland’s release from prison in March, he’s been on the media rounds, balancing carefully on the line between a public plea for forgiveness and a quick push to PYRT.

McFarland told NBC News that during his time in prison he served two separate shifts in solitary confinement: a three-month stint for sneaking a USB drive with him containing notes for a potential tell-all book, and then a seven-month stint. by calling a podcast about Fyre through a pay phone. Prison officials declined to discuss McFarland’s time in solitary confinement.

Now that he’s trying to move on, McFarland said he’s refocusing on what he lost sight of during Fyre: his emphasis on technology and product design.

“I’m really getting back into technology, which I think is where my unique skill set lies,” McFarland said.

Deng, the former product designer, said otherwise.

“He was really good at shooting but he had no technical skills,” he said.

McFarland is now building on what’s to come, inviting those interested to come work for PYRT in a «high risk» position.

Despite more than $25 million in restitution, restrictions that limit you from serving As a head of a public company and a nationwide ban in the Bahamas, McFarland still sees a festival in his future, even if it’s not on the horizon yet.

“I would love to do that. I feel like I have to at some point in the future. It’s not happening right now.»