From the looks of it, things were going pretty well for the Orange County singer known as Robb “TaLLLLL” University. His band, Lights Over Paris, was touring the country. Their album “Turn off the Lights” appeared on the Billboard Heatseeker Albums chart. The rapper Game recorded a verse of one of their songs and appeared in the music video.
But earlier this year, the illusion began to crack.
In January, University (whose real name is Robert Mawhinney) was charged in Los Angeles federal court with making false statements to obtain millions in loans in order to fund his musical career and a lavish lifestyle.
On Monday he was sentenced to seven years in federal prison.
According to federal prosecutors, Mawhinney, a 30-year-old Anaheim resident and front man for the musical group, applied for more than $11 million in loans by submitting fake statements showing that he had millions in cash savings.
In fact, prosecutors said, he had less than $10,000.
The front man used the money to pay for travel, entertainment and a tour bus that cost more than $750,000, according to a written statement provided by the United States attorney's office for the Central District of California.
Mawhinney, authorities said, also helped two associates fraudulently obtain more than $1.7 in loans for their own music business.
On April 22, Mawhinney pleaded guilty to four counts of making false statements to federally insured banks and one count of money laundering. One day after making the plea, he again made false statements to a financial institution in an attempt to get more credit, prosecutors said. The statements caused U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney to revoke his bond.
In a sentencing memorandum, which argued that Mawhinney had accepted responsibility for the crimes and deserved a lighter sentence, his girlfriend, Lauren Phillips, said the singer 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. “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 filed by Mawhinney’s defense attorneys, shortly before making his guilty plea, Mawhinney secured a recording contract with the Japanese music 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 reads.
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