Pixel Tracker

Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 9:38 pm | Fair 51º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara Resident Pleads Guilty to Real Estate Scam

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced Friday that she was contacted by the Department of Justice indicating the former bass player for the rock band, The Ataris, pleaded guilty earlier in the day to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Michael S. Davenport, 50, of Santa Barbara, appeared at the federal district courthouse in East St. Louis, Ill., and admitted to owning and operating a telemarketing business that defrauded thousands of would-be renters and home-buyers throughout the U.S. from 2009-16.

Davenport’s Santa Barbara-based business changed names several times but was known variously as MDSQ Productions LLC, Housing Standard LLC, Anchor House Financial, American Standard, American Standard Online, and Your American Standard. Court documents simply refer to the business as “American Standard.”

As part of his guilty plea, Davenport admitted that American Standard posted ads on Craigslist listing certain houses for sale or rent at very favorable prices, when, in fact, the houses described in the ads didn’t exist.

Consumers who responded to the ads were told they would have to purchase American Standard’s list of houses before they could see any additional information.

Consumers were also told the houses on American Standard’s list were in “pre-foreclosure,” that they could buy the properties by simply taking over the homeowners’ mortgage payments, and that the deeds to the homes would then be transferred into the customers’ names.

The $199 fee that American Standard charged to access the list was purportedly to cover the cost of title searches and deed transfers.

No matter what area of the country the consumer lived in, American Standard salespersons told them the list contained numerous pre-foreclosure properties available in their area.

After consumers paid the $199 fee, they learned that the houses on American Standard’s list were not actually available for purchase.

Davenport acknowledged that the scheme operated from about January 2009 through at least October 5, 2016, over which time more than 100,000 victims were defrauded in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

All told, the scheme took in more than $25 million.

Earlier this year, three of Davenport’s former employees also pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Illinois to participating in the American Standard fraud conspiracy.

Mark A. Phillips, 50, and Semjase E. Santana, 37, were salespeople at American Standard’s headquarters in Santa Barbara.  Carlynne L. Davis, 33, was a salesperson in the company’s Lompoc branch office. All three are currently awaiting sentencing.

Criminal charges are pending against Cynthia L. Rawlinson, 51, of Santa Barbara, who is named as a co-defendant in Davenport’s indictment. Rawlinson’s trial is set to begin Nov. 5 at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis.

Davenport’s sentencing is set for 10 a.m. Dec. 28, in East St. Louis.

Under the federal SCAMS Act, because the crimes involved telemarketing and victimized 10 or more people over the age of 55, Davenport could receive as much as 30 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

He may also be ordered to pay restitution to his victims. Davenport’s plea agreement requires him to forfeit $853,210.11 taken from his merchant processing accounts, as well as $79,000 in cash that was seized from him last July as he was boarding a plane in Little Rock, Ark.

This case is part of an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott A. Verseman.

Both the FBI and Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office contributed to the investigation.

“Through the collaborative efforts of the various agencies noted above, there is now the beginning of justice for the thousands of victims, nationwide, of this predatory conspiracy,” said Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley.

“Special thanks to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Investigator Patrick Adams for his excellent work authoring and executing significant search warrants in this historic case,” she said.

— Debbie Fox for Santa Barbara County District Attorney.

 

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.