Rock guitarist jailed for charity fraud
Los Angeles based musician Marino De Silva has been jailed for up to eight years after admitting to a multi-million dollar fraud in which he scammed investors out of money for albums that weren’t what he’d promised they would be.
The Hull, UK-born guitarist told people he was producing rare and valuable unheard material from Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.
De Silva, who described himself as an “international multi-platinum award-winning guitarist,” claimed he’d won a Grammy and said he was a close friend of Keith Richards, also produced charity CDs – but didn’t pass the promised cash onto the charities.
But once they’d handed over their cheques, many found it impossible to discover what was happening with their money. And some of those who heard the results of De Silva’s work were furious at its poor quality.
Meanwhile he was living the a life of luxury in a $2m mansion, reports This Is Hull. In the classic style of a Ponzi scheme he paid people tiny proportions of what he owed them by spending some of the cash he’d taken in from his latest victims.
That came to an end when he fled Nevada as investigators moved in, only to be arrested and jailed in February. This week De Silva was sentenced to a prison term no shorter than three years after admitting the fraudulent sale of securities.
His former friend Mike Dawson lost $38,000 in one scam. He said: “He was living in a mansion and there was no question he had done well. He asked if I wanted to come on board with one of his ventures. He told me he had some Beatles tracks and he was going to digitally remaster them.”
But when the album was released it consisted of no new Beatles material – instead it was mainly cover versions including some recorded by De Silva himself.
Dawson said: “I feel like an idiot now because it’s so implausible – but he was a mate.
“To be betrayed by a childhood friend is annoying. It seems he’s been using charitable foundations as fronts and simply living the high life without paying his investors back.”
Before Marino’s arrest an anonymous blogger told how he’d been conned three times. He wrote: “A good friend approached me with an opportunity to invest in an album of previously unreleased works by Jimi Hendrix. I opted for a return of fifty cents per album sale, signed the deal and wrote a fat cheque to Marino De Silva.
“It turns out it was not original works of Hendrix, but a collection of poorly-recorded interviews. I felt pretty burned. I started making requests for the sales reports. They never appeared.”
De Silva repeated the routine with a Rolling Stones album, and the blogger admits he was “duped again.” Finally he fell for a Beatles-related project before realising: “I’m going to work on forgiving myself for throwing so much good money after bad. Marino De Silva is a crook.”
One charity who were supposed to benefit from De Silva’s fundraising releases said they had received a donation of “nearly four figures” rather than the much larger amounts some had expected to be sent.
Incidentally, if you were a regular reader of Kerrang! in the 1980s, you’ll probably recognise De Silva as the brother of the magazine’s pin-up Lisa Dominique. Watch the siblings below, performing on the short-lived Channel 4 TV rock show ECT.