Frontman for LA band charged with $6M loan fraud
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Robert Mawhinney gave the appearance that his fledgling band, Lights Over Paris, was successful. He enlisted rapper The Game for one of his videos, traveled around the world and had a customized tour bus emblazoned with the group's name on its side.
But federal prosecutors said Mawhinney's fortunes were built on fraud because he bilked more than $6 million in loans from banks by providing them fake documents that claimed he was a millionaire.
Authorities said Friday the 30-year-old singer was charged with making a false statement in a loan application and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. He's scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 11.
Over a nearly two-year period, beginning in August 2009, Mawhinney sought and obtained four loans from Comerica Inc. totaling about $6.2 million, according to court documents. He provided statements that claimed he had nearly $8 million in assets, but it turned out his account had only about $10,000, authorities said.
Loan officers even visited a recording studio in Burbank to determine if Mawhinney was creditworthy. There, the singer said he was a successful ghostwriter for various artists and sought the loans to finish a recording room in the studio, among other expenses, court documents show.
During that time, the band released an EP "Turn Off the Lights," which appeared on Billboard's Heatseeker Albums chart. The band also produced a video entitled "I'm Not A Gangsta," in which Mawhinney is riding shotgun in a Rolls Royce driven by The Game.
Prosecutors said Mawhinney attempted to pay off of some of his loans with proceeds he received from earlier payouts, but he eventually defaulted.
Mawhinney, who used the stage name Robb University, apparently lived the rock star lifestyle. He lived in a 35-story luxury high-rise located in downtown Los Angeles, took trips to the Caribbean, Europe and South America, and purchased a luxury tour bus that cost more than $750,000.
The front of the bus, once featured in Limo Digest, resembles the nose of an airplane and the vehicle is equipped with exterior awnings that, when expanded, look like wings.
Mawhinney was arrested at Miami International Airport earlier this month after returning from a trip to Buenos Aires.
He was being held without bond after a U.S. magistrate judge determined he posed a flight risk. Prosecutors said Mawhinney had sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to Cyprus but didn't elaborate.
Mawhinney's attorney, Jerry Kaplan, declined comment.
Prosecutors said that two brothers who ran a recording facility and worked with Mawhinney have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit loan fraud.
Matt Salazar, 29, and his brother, Jason Salazar, 28, acknowledged they provided false documents to three banks to obtain about $1.7 million in loans for their music business, according to court documents.
Mawhinney used the Salazars' studio to bolster his own fraudulent loan applications, prosecutors said.
The Salazars face a maximum of five years in prison.