Bahamiam restaurant owner defrauded by Fyre Festival will share GoFundMe donations

By Megan Cerullo

/ MoneyWatch

Over $150K raised for Fyre Festival caterer

The Bahamian restaurant owner whose GoFundMe campaign took off after she was featured in a Netflix documentary about the disastrous Fyre Festival has raised nearly $200,000 in 11 days — and donations keep coming in.

Maryann Rolle, owner of the Exuma Point Bar and Grille, said she worked day and night to cook thousands of meals for Fyre Festival workers and attendees — without pay. She has recouped the more than $100,000 she says the festival owes her, but says she won't keep the additional money for herself. Instead, she plans on distributing it among the thousands of other local workers who were duped into laboring on behalf of the doomed event.

"People from all over the Bahamas are asking for help and I am willing to help people because that is my life — helping people," Rolle told CBS MoneyWatch.

She said she's received hundreds of calls from friends and strangers alike seeking financial assistance, and that her phone now rings so frequently that she finds it hard to sleep. Though she's eager to help, she wants everyone to know that she hasn't yet collected the donations.

"The money hasn't reached into my physical hands yet to help people, to pass the love on and to make people happy," she said. "The money is still in the GoFundMe account and I am waiting to bless people."

Rolle was conned by Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland, who is currently serving a six year prison sentence for fraud. She and her husband catered more than 1,000 meals a day and also housed event organizers in hopes that if their restaurant operation delivered, it would bring more business to the island. "I did it because I wanted the event to be a success; I knew if it was a success they would pay me well," she said.

It was not a success, however. The music event billed as a VIP experience featuring Blink-182 and other musical acts quickly devolved into a barbaric retreat whose "luxury accommodations" included unfinished tents and drenched mattresses. Organizer McFarland, 27, is currently serving six years in prison for a fraud estimated to have stolen $27.4 million from investors.

Rolle's first priority once she withdraws funds from the GoFundMe account will be to help other Exuma residents, including those who are owed wages from Fyre. "I am going to help the people who worked with the festival as much as I can here, and then other islands too, I will give it to them," she said.

She implored those asking for help to at least wait until she has access to the donations. "People are calling me as if a billion dollars have dropped into my account; just allow me to get the money so I can help you," she said.

Rolle also wants to make clear that the Fyre Festival did not contribute to the GoFundMe campaign. "This is money that people made in $5 and $10 donations," she said.

Rolle said she doesn't plan on investing in her own restaurant — which is touted as one of the island's best in online reviews.

"I don't think there will be anything left for the restaurant after I give it all away," she said. "It makes me happy knowing the world has cared about me and I will pass it all along and let everybody enjoy it. That might be the best thing for me at this time."

First published on January 25, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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