The old saying goes that the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good yarn.
Well, an aspiring Californian rock star took that advice as gospel, managing to defraud millions of dollars in his rise to the top… only for his music dream and lies to come crashing back down on him. The irony being that those facts themselves don’t get in the way of a pretty incredible tale.
It’s a story that begins with a rock band called Lights Over Paris, ever heard of them? Of course you haven’t, and neither had the banks that led the Orange County band’s lead singer $11 million in credit to help realise his rock star dreams, as Radio.com reports.
Robb “TaLLLLL” University manage to conjure up false statements and documentations to show that he was worth $8 million in assets, telling banks that he’d be using the $11 million loan to fund his music career through the purchase of recording equipment and backing musical ventures.
In reality however Mr. TaLLLLL (that’s five ‘l’s, sir), was the stage name of one Robert Mawhinney of Anaheim, who in reality had only $10,000 to his name, who squandered the million dollar fortune he conned from the banks not on raising Lights Over Paris’ profile, but instead spending big on exotic holidays and wasting $750k on a fancy tour bus shaped like an airplane.
While scamming creditors and living the high life, Mawhinney and his band did manage to release the Turn Off The Lights EP, which even tracked onto Billboard’s Heatseaker Albums chart, as well as producing a lavish music video for a single called (wait for it…) ‘I’m Not A Gangsta”; featuring Robb ‘TaLLLLL’ University riding in a Rolls Royce driven by tattooed rap str, The Game. (You really couldn’t make this stuff up.)
Eventually (and inevitably) Mawhinney’s con came unravelled. Earlier this week, the would-be rock star was sentenced to seven years in federal prison by United States Distrcit Judge Cormac J. Carney.
Courts heard how the Lights Over Paris conman managed to obtain and maintain the bank loans by issuing fabricated “false statements and documents to the banks, including financial statements and tax returns with forged signatures of identity-theft victims,” according to a press statement from the US Attoreny’s Office, California Central Disctrict.
Mawhinney also used his grandfather’s account to create more fraudulent documents boasting “inflated balances that he gave to the victim banks.”
Once Mawhinney was busted, back on 22nd April, he pleaded guilty to four counts of making false statements to federally insured banks and one count of money laundering… only to push his luck once more the very next day, caught attempting to defraud yet another financial institution in an attempt to obtain more credit, reportedly for his legal fees, only for Judge Carney to revoke his bond and force him back into custody.
Not only did Mr. TaLLLLL defraud banks to live out his rock star dreams, but he faces additional accusations that he helped two other associates in similarly coning banks, obtaining more than $1.7 million in loans for their own music ‘businesses’.
All this from a man whose only hit proclaims he’s not a gangster.
“For approximately three and a half years Mawhinney obtained and assisted others to obtain substantial loans from multiple banks through fraud,” reads a sentencing memorandum filed in court by the singer’s girlfriend, Lauren Phillips, appealing for a lighter sentence noting that Mawhinney meant no harm.
“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.”
According to the memorandum, shortly before making his guilty plea, Lights Over Paris had actually scored a recording contract, with Japanese label Avex.
“Upon his release from prison, if there is still an opportunity to perform on this contract, Mr. Mawhinney intends to complete the album for Avex and use the monies he obtains from his contract and other employment towards satisfying an expected restitution order,” the memorandum notes.
A pretty incredible tale, all in all, which would make a great rock movie… if only someone could secure the millions in credit it would take to bankroll such a production.
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