Fyre Festival Co-Founder Billy McFarland Paid Someone to Write His Wikipedia Bio

— McFarland’s self-promotional Wikipedia bio now describes him as a “fraudster”

Billy McFarland, co-founder of the doomed Fyre Festival, paid a professional Wikipedia editor in 2014 to create his current bio as part of a promotional effort to raise his public profile.

According to Wikipedia editing records, McFarland paid a user with the handle Bernie44 an undisclosed amount to promote his involvement in two tech startups: the failed content-sharing site Spling; and the ultra-exclusive Magnises black card, which with Fyre went down in flames following McFarland’s conviction last year for defrauding investors.

Billy McFarland (source)

“McFarland founded Magnises in August 2013, and officially launched the card on March 1, 2014, aiming to create an exclusive black card that was community-oriented and technology-based, offering perks, guidance and cachet that would improve the everyday life of its members and appeal to the millennial generation,” reads Bernie44’s paid draft from September 8, 2014. “As of August 2014, Magnises has 3,000 members, including actress Rosario Dawson, former NBA player Baron Davis, and musicians French MontanaWale and Gabe Saporta.”

Bernie44 disclosed having been paid by McFarland in accordance with Wikipedia’s June 16, 2014 update to its terms and services.

“[This] is to disclose that I am paid for some of the articles I create and/or edit, in most cases by the subject of the article,” Bernie44 wrote. “Whether paid or not, I always aim to contribute positively to Wikipedia and to edit within Wikipedia’s guidelines, with properly sourced, neutral, constructive edits. I hope my work is judged based on those standards.”

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McFarland found fame in 2017 when his attempt to organise the luxury Fyre music festival in the Bahamas fell apart in spectacular fashion. The $1,200 to $100,000 per ticket event promised two weekends of music, gourmet meals, luxury villas, and parties on yachts with supermodels. But after months of failed preparations, the event crashed and burned in real time, leaving attendees stranded on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma without food, water, or shelter.

Last year, McFarland pleaded guilty to “fraudulently induc[ing] investments into his companies Fyre Media, Inc., Fyre Festival LLC, and Magnises, Inc., including in connection with McFarland’s failed venture to host a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ music festival in the Bahamas.” He was later sentenced to six years in prison.

Adding to that growing list of failures, last week McFarland’s self-created bio, originally titled “Billy McFarland (entrepreneur),” was moved to a new page, “Billy McFarland (fraudster).”

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Seryan Mirzakhanyan©

— Medicare scammer claims copyright of his name, life story, and criminal record in effort to convince Google to delist reports about $5.4 million fraud conviction from U.S. Department of Justice website

Seryan Mirzakhanyan, a 32-year-old Armenian-born scammer from California, who in 2016 was convicted of defrauding Medicare of $5.4 million, has filed at least three DMCA notices with Google requesting that the search engine delist records of the criminal scheme from the Department of Justice (DOJ) website, plus a number of news and legal document hosting sites.

According to one of the targeted DOJ reports, last year Mirzakhanyan along with three other men including two former Houston medical clinic owners, admitted that they opened three clinics “with the intention to defraud Medicare,” that “the majority of the diagnostic tests allegedly done at the three clinics were either not done or not medically necessary,” and that “the medical equipment, patient files and doctors were all there only to make it appear legitimate. They further admitted hiring doctors for that purpose and that they paid marketers to bring patients to the fraudulent clinics.”

In an effort to convince Google to fulfil his request, Mirzakhanyan is claiming copyright of his name, life story, and criminal record. Here is an example of one of the requests, via the Lumen Database:

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If you can’t read that it says: “my name seryan mirzakhanyan is copyrighted, which includes my criminal record.”

Here’s the DOJ delisting request:

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If you can’t read that it says: “life of seryan mirzakhanyan born in armenia, got charged with healthcare fraud.”

In January, Mirzakhanyan was handed a 28-month prison sentence and ordered to pay restitution of $1.48 million for his part in the criminal scheme.

Update, 23/10/2017: It appears that two other people who were involved in the scam (or one person pretending to be multiple people) have filed identical requests. Click here, here, and here to read.

A Complicated Deal (Part II)

— Four criminal convictions, one suicide, and one satisfied customer: Unravelling Donald Trump’s “complicated” 1993 Palm Beach real estate purchase from convicted fraudster Leslie Greyling

Earlier this month I blogged about Donald Trump’s 1993 Palm Beach real estate deal with Leslie Greyling, a notorious South African fraudster who was later deported to England after a string of illegal business ventures, including a mafia-linked “pump and dump” scheme.

According to a November 21, 1993 report by the Miami Herald, Trump paid Greyling $1.6 million – less than half the original sale price – for 1094 S. Ocean Blvd, a lavish 7,863 square-foot, marble-floored property adjacent Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

1094 S. Ocean Blvd (source)

The article left some nagging questions. For instance, why would Greyling – a professional con man – sell the property apparently at a substantial loss to himself?

Jeffrey A. Paine, a now-disbarred West Palm Beach attorney who helped arrange the deal and who in 2001 was handed a five-year sentence and fined $80 million for conspiring to commit mail fraud, speculated that Trump might have had other deals with Greyling.

Trump’s local realtor at the time, Robert Weiner, who committed suicide in 2012 after Florida state regulators launched a probe into the disappearance of over $250,000 from his real estate Escrow accounts, also suggested that other deals had taken place, but didn’t say what they were.

After digging around online, I found this February 3, 1994 New York Times report, which states that Trump “had purchased an option to buy a St. Charles, Mo., casino site from the Members Service Corporation,” a failed Winter Park holding company involved in gambling and real estate:

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Although he didn’t say how much he paid for the option, Trump told the Times it would be good for a “fairly long term.”

Here’s the scoop: Members Service was headed by none other than – you guessed it – Leslie Greyling, who along with two other executives, Arthur S. Feher Jr. and Daniel M. Boyar, was indicted in March 1996 for charges including conspiracy, stock fraud, and money laundering.

Greyling was sentenced to one year in prison and was later deported to England.

Feher was convicted of unregistered securities fraud in what was said to be “the first criminal case involving a scheme to avoid registering securities under a regulation governing sales to foreigners.” Facing a 25-year sentence, he fled to Mexico where in late 1996 he died of a heart attack.

In 2015, Boyar was handed a seven-year sentence for tax evasion stemming from his activities with Greyling and Feher.

All in all, that’s – count ‘em – two real estate deals, four criminal convictions, one suicide, and one satisfied customer.

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It’s unclear what came of Trump’s 1994 Missouri deal with Members Service, but public records show Trump still owns 1094 S. Ocean Blvd.

The property is currently valued at over $8 million.

A Complicated Deal

— What were the details of Donald Trump’s “complicated” real estate deal with South African fraudster Leslie Greyling?

In November 1993, Donald Trump paid $1.6 million for 1094 S. Ocean Blvd, a 7,863 square-foot, marble-floored house adjacent his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

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Trump purchased the house for less than half the original sale price from Leslie Greyling, a South African real estate investor who in 1995 was convicted and later deported to England for his involvement in a string of illegal business ventures, including a mafia-linked “pump and dump” scheme.

Leslie Greyling (source)

However, the details of Trump’s deal with Greyling leave some nagging questions. For instance, why did Greyling – a professional con man – sell the house apparently at a substantial loss to himself?

It’s “complicated” – that’s according to Jeffrey A. Paine, a now-disbarred West Palm Beach attorney who represented 1094’s former owners, and who in 2001 was handed a five-year sentence and fined $80 million for conspiring to commit mail fraud.

“I don’t know whether he intends to make up some money in another deal or what,” Paine told the Miami Herald in 1993. “All I can say is that we sold our shares (to Greyling) for substantially more than $1.6 million.”

Greyling’s signed warranty deed form (source)

According to Trump’s local realtor at the time, Robert Weiner, who committed suicide in 2012 after Florida state regulators launched a probe into the disappearance of $250,000 from his real estate Escrow accounts, Trump was “involved with a ‘South African company’ in some deals,” but didn’t elaborate about what they were.

It’s unclear if Trump had any other deals with Greyling, but public records show Trump still owns 1094. The house is currently valued at around $8 million.