What sum or small fortune would you pay to hear rare, unreleased material from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles?

Thousands? Millions? Seems too good to be true right? Well, in this case, probably because it is.

Los Angelean guitarist Marino De Silva did just that. In a case reminiscent of the Sydney conman who swindled millions from would-be investors in his fake music label business, the LA muso scammed potential investors with a con that he could produce rare and valuable material by classic rock stars, only to produce misleading or fraudulent material and make off with the profits.

Classic Rock reports that the self-described “international multi-platinum award-winning guitarist”, will be jailed for a maximum of eight years after admitting to a multi-million dollar fraud in which he scammed charities and would-be investors in his rare material.

De Silva, who also bragged that he was a Grammy-winning artist and a good chum of Keith Richards, told people he would produce charity CDs for which the charities never saw a dollar of the funds promised from their sale. Paying people tiny proportions of what he owed them by spending some of the cash he’d taken in from his latest victims.
De Silva was reportedly using the money that he’d scammed to purchase a $2 million mansion in the UK before fleeing to Nevada as investigators closed in on his fraudulent practices, eventually arrested last February and this week sentenced to imprisonment after admitting to his multi-million dollar scam.

A former associate of De Silva, one Mike Dawson, lost $38,000 in one scam, telling Classic Rock“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.”

When the resultant album, commissioned by a charity organisation, was released however, it contained no such material – instead a bunch of Beatles covers – including some recorded by De Silva himself. “I feel like an idiot now because it’s so implausible,” said Dawson “– but he was a mate. It seems he’s been using charitable foundations as fronts and simply living the high life without paying his investors back.”

Other investors burnt by De Silva’s scam allegedly include commissions for an album of previously unreleased works by Jimi Hendrix, which turned out to be not songs – but a collection of poorly recorded interviews. Another dupe involved investors throwing large amounts of money at a Rolling Stones album.

One charity, which wished to remain anonymous, were supposed to benefit from De Silva’s legendary recordings in a fundraising release, but received a donation of “nearly four figures” instead of the much larger sum they had been promised, and expected.

In related news, 46-year-old NSW conman was recently charged and sentenced for swindling millions from investors in his fraudulent music label, by fooling them with photoshopped images of himself rubbing shoulders with powerful political figures, rock stars and cultural power brokers.

Whether it’s attempting to associate yourself with Jimi Hendrix’s recording legacy or palling it up with Molly Meldrum, in both cases – it seems that crime only pays for so long.