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Man Scammed Banks Out of $11M to Fund Rock Star Fantasy

Robert Mawhinney used cash from loans to pay for parties, trips, music video.

ByABC News
January 3, 2014, 11:21 AM

Jan. 3, 2014— -- When one man apparently didn't have the talent he needed to become a famous rock star, he resorted to crime.

As the lead singer for his band, Lights Over Paris, Robert Mawhinney's dream was to make it big. While living in Orange County, Calif., in his teens, Mawhinney idolized superstar rock bands like Blink-182.

By his mid-20’s, Mawhinney’s band had no recording contract, no gigs, and no merchandise to sell. Yet, somehow, his bank account was brimming with money, which he used to take trips to places like New York City.

"It was crazy," Brian King, who answered to a Craigslist ad in 2009 to be a videographer for Lights Over Paris, told ABC News' "20/20." "There was a lot of shopping. There was a lot of booze, a lot of champagne, and the hotel suite ended up getting trashed at the end of the trip."

Judging by his wild, all-night parties at his numerous luxury dwellings across Los Angeles, Calif., which included a $10,500-a-month party house in the Hollywood Hills, Mawhinney had fulfilled his rock and roll fantasy.

"I have no idea where all the women came from," King said. "He'd get a woman to sit in the middle of the buffet table and hand people sushi off of her body."

From spraying pricey champagne off the balcony of a penthouse suite to deploying an in-concert money gun that shot money into the crowd, Mawhinney seemed to have endless amounts of cash and the urge to spend it. He even built a one-of-a-kind tour bus for over $750,000.

Later in 2009, Mawhinney landed in a recording studio to record a Lights Over Paris album with professional musicians and even a string section in support. However, there was a problem: Mawhinney didn't have a record label, and he'd never performed live or made a record before.

"A lot of people didn't really know what the deal was with Rob," King said. "People just thought he was a really wealthy guy who wanted to be the next Blink 182."

Despite his lack of expertise being exposed, Mawhinney was able to pay for help. He hired a choreographer, got a custom microphone stand, and even commissioned rapper "The Game" to rap on his song.

Lights Over Paris’ first music video cost over six figures. Olivia Hardt, who was cast to star in the music video and kiss Mawhinney, told “20/20” had questions about where Rob was getting all the money.

"He told me something along the lines of when his grandfather had passed away that he received some inheritance," Hardt said.

But it was all a lie. Mawhinney collected the cash by going to banks asking for millions in loans with false statements.

"The loan officer in the bank asked Mr. Mawhinney to provide proof of the statements that he made in the application, regarding his assets and his income," Ranee Katzenstein, assistant U.S. attorney, told "20/20."

Mawhinney produced documents listing $8 million in stocks and what appeared to be an accountant-prepared 1040 document. Four different banks issued Mawhinney loans to the collective total of $11 million.

"The tax return was entirely fake, and the CPA whose name was used on the letter...we interviewed him, and he said, again: 'Robert Mawhinney? Never heard of him,'" said Katzenstein.

Eventually, Mawhinney’s fakery caught up with him. On the night of Oct. 1, 2011, when Lights Over Paris was supposed to play at the Roxy in Los Angeles, Calif., Mawhinney never showed up, sending a DJ in his place. Halfway through the show, the DJ was served with legal papers intended for Mawhinney, who was way behind on his house rent. A year later, Mawhinney was arrested in Miami, Fla.

Mawhinney was charged with multiple felonies and pleaded guilty to four counts of making false statements. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, which is where he called "20/20" from.

"The thing I regret is...kind of losing control," Mawhinney told "20/20" over the phone. "My was crazy, and I was hoping deep down that I could rectify the situation these things back."

"I wish I could have done it, or I would have done it without all that money."