Michael S. Davenport, a Santa Barbara resident and former bassist for the punk-rock band The Ataris, pleaded guilty in September to defrauding over 100,000 people in a seven-year-long, $27 million, nationwide telemarketing real estate scam.
Between 2009 and 2016, Davenport operated a telemarketing business, American Standard, that placed advertisements on Craigslist of houses for sale at favorable prices. The houses, however, did not exist. These “false and misleading” advertisements, prosecutors said, required customers to purchase a list provided by American Standard for $199 that purported to contain additional information about the homes. Customers were told that the list featured houses that were in “pre-foreclosure,” and that they could “purchase the properties by simply taking over the homeowners’ mortgage payment.” However, upon paying the fee, customers were told that the houses were no longer available for purchase, and their fees were kept.
In October 2016, FBI agents accompanied by local law enforcement officers raided American Standard’s call centers in Lompoc and Santa Barbara. Davenport was later arrested in December 2017 on federal conspiracy and fraud charges. Susan Quinn, Davenport’s business partner and ex-wife, publically maintained his innocence and threatened to sue media outlets that reported on his arrest.
According to Joyce Dudley, District Attorney of Santa Barbara County, Davenport confessed that the scheme defrauded more than 100,000 victims in all 50 states. Four of Davenport’s associates, including Santa Barbara resident Cynthia L. Rawlinson, who was named as a codefendant in his indictment, have also pleaded guilty to participating in the American Standard conspiracy.
Davenport’s sentencing date has been scheduled for December 28, 2018, in East St. Louis. He faces up to 30 years in prison, and has been ordered to forfeit over $900,000 in assets. He also faces a potential $250,000 fine.