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Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 3:56 am | Fair 48º


Santa Barbara Man Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison for Federal Fraud Case

Michael Davenport, former base guitarist for The Ataris, and four others charged for real-estate scam with Santa Barbara County call centers

Law enforcement raid of a call center Click to view larger
Lompoc police joined the FBI and other agencies in October 2016 in serving search warrants at a call center on North V Street in Lompoc, under investigation for fraud. Multiple employees of the business have been charged in federal court.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A Santa Barbara man and former rock guitarist who faced multiple federal charges for operating a real-estate telemarketing scam will spend seven years in prison after pleading guilty.

Michael S. Davenport, 50, a former bass guitarist for The Ataris, was sentenced Wednesday in a federal courtroom in Illinois, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois. 

After being charged with multiple crimes in December 2017, Davenport pleaded guilty in September 2018 to a one-count federal indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, authorities said.

He was accused of operating a Santa Barbara County-based business that defrauded thousands of would-be renters and home-buyers nationwide of more than $25 million between 2009 and 2016.

The businesses changed names but were known at various times as MDSQ Productions LLC, Housing Standard LLC, Anchor House Financial, American Standard, American Standard Online, and Your American Standard.

For $199, call center employees promised the customer would receive access to a list of houses for sale and to take over the monthly mortgage payments on foreclosed or pre-foreclosed homes.

Customers claimed the homes on the list were not for sale, didn’t exist, or had owners not interested in selling or not at risk of foreclosure.

In October 2016, federal agents and local law enforcement officers raided the Lompoc strip mall office on North V Street where the business most recently operated along with three other locations in Santa Barbara County.

In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Staci M. Yandle chastised Davenport for what she characterized as a crime of greed. 

“You were intoxicated with making all this money,” she told him. “You did horrible things.”

After Davenport serves his prison sentence, he must spend three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment and a $1,500 fine. 

However, restitution details have been deferred 30 days, federal authorities said.

As part of his sentence, Davenport was ordered to forfeit $853,210 in fraud proceeds that were recovered from his credit card processing accounts, as well as $79,000 in cash.

Four of Davenport’s former employees also have been charged in connection with the case, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cynthia L. Rawlinson, 52, of Santa Barbara, was sentenced to five years of supervised release. Rawlinson was a salesperson who also briefly served as a manager for American Standard.

Earlier this year, two other American Standard sales representatives from Santa Barbara — Mark A. Phillips, 50, and Semjase E. Santana, 37 — were sentenced to serve five years of supervised release. 

And in April, Carlynne L. Davis, 34, of Lompoc, will return for sentencing after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with her American Standard role.

For years leading up to the charges, the Better Business Bureau of the Tri-Counties processed more than 1,000 complaints and distributed tens of thousands of F-rated Reliability reports on American Standards and its related entities. 

The case served as an example of why buyers should use caution if they’re not familiar with a business, the organization said in a statement Thursday.

“American Standard optimizes the kind of fraudulent behavior that BBB tries to protect consumers from,” said Richard Copelan, BBB of the Tri-Counties CEO and President. 

“That’s why I can’t stress enough how important it is that consumers first consult the BBB before engaging in business with companies with whom they’re unfamiliar.”

Through the years, American Standard never responded to the BBB efforts to resolve the complaints, Copelan said. 

“They had a pretty poor rating from the get-go,” Copelan said.

In many situations, BBB works with law enforcement officers to help identify scam victims who filed complaints, which can lead to an improved chance of reimbursing those who were defrauded, Copelan said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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