In what feels like a made-for-TV movie, the lead singer of aspiring Orange County, CA, rock band Lights Over Paris has landed himself in federal prison after defrauding banks for more than $11 million in an effort to live the lavish lifestyle of a rock star.
Known under the stage name Robb “TaLLLLL” University, Robert Mawhinney of Anaheim was sentenced to seven years in federal prison yesterday (October 21) by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.
Using false statements showing $8 million in assets, Mawhinney was able to secure more than $11 million in credit. In reality, the singer had less than $10,000 in his accounts. Despite telling banks he’d be using the money to fund his music business and to purchase recording equipment, Mawhinney used the cash for exotic vacations and a $750,000 luxury tour bus shaped as an airplane.
In order to obtain and maintain the loans, Mawhinney “created false statements and documents to the banks, including financial statements and tax returns with forged signatures of identity-theft victims,” explained a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, California Central District. Mawhinney went so far as to use his grandfather’s Schwab account to create some of the fraudulent statements boasting “inflated balances that he gave to the victim banks.”
The day after pleading guilty to four counts of making false statements to federally insured banks, Mawhinney pressed his luck by yet again making false statements to another financial institution in an attempt to obtain more credit, resulting in Judge Carney revoking his bond and forcing him back into custody.
“For approximately three and a half years Mawhinney obtained and assisted others to obtain substantial loans from multiple banks through fraud,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed in court. Mawhinney is also accused of helping two associates fraudulently obtain more than $1.7 in loans for their music business.
“I know that Robb knows what he did was wrong, but what I also know is that a lot of what Robb did came from the passion of wanting to live out his dream, the dream of being a rock star,” Phillips wrote in a letter to the judge obtained by the LA Times. “Starting Lights Over Paris was not a selfish attempt at fame, but rather a way to involve so many people in a shared dream.”
During the period Mawhinney was bilking banks, his band released “Turn Off the Lights,” an EP that appeared on Billboard’s Heatseeker Albums chart. The band also produced a video for “I’m Not A Gangsta,” featuring Mawhinney riding shotgun in a Rolls Royce driven by rapper The Game.
Turns out Mawhinney is a “gangsta.”