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Former rocker sentenced to 7 years for real estate scam in southern IL

(Source: Raycom Media)
(Source: Raycom Media)
Published: Mar. 7, 2019 at 4:42 PM CST
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BENTON, IL (KFVS) - The former bass guitarist for the rock band The Ataris was sentenced to federal prison.

Michael S. Davenport, 50, of Santa Barbara, California, was sentenced on Wednesday to serve 7 years in prison for defrauding thousands of would-be renters and home-buyers throughout the United States from 2009 to 2016.

He pleaded guilty in September to a one-count federal indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Southern Illinois, 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 refer to the business as “American Standard.”

As part of his guilty plea, Davenport admitted that American Standard posted ads on Craigslist listing houses for sale or rent at favorable prices, when the houses described in the ads didn’t exist. Consumers who responded to the ads were told they would have to buy American Standard’s list of houses before they could see any more information.

Court documents say consumers were also told that the houses on American Standard’s list were in “pre-foreclosure,” and that they could buy the properties by 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 said 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 that the list contained numerous pre-foreclosure properties available in their area.

After consumers paid the fee, court documents state they learned that the houses on the list were not available to buy. A substantial number of the addresses on the list were fictional, or there were simply no houses at those locations. In other instances, the houses were not in pre-foreclosure or any financial distress and were not available to be bought at below-market prices.

According to court documents, if an American Standard customer asked for more information about a specific house advertised on Craigslist, the company’s customer service department told them that the house was no longer available.

This scheme went on from January 2009 through at least October 5, 2016, during which American Standard defrauded more than 130,000 people of around $25 million.

The victims were located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 100 victims of the scam were located in the Southern District of Illinois, spread across 22 counties, with multiple victims in St. Clair and Madison Counties. American Standard’s list included 534 houses located in southern Illinois.

As part of the sentence, Davenport was ordered to forfeit $853,201.11 in fraud proceeds that were recovered from his credit card processing accounts, as well as $79,000 in cash that was seized from him at the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport in Little Rock, Ark.

Four of Davenport’s former employees have also been charged with participating in the American Standard fraud conspiracy.

On Wednesday afternoon, just hours after Davenport’s sentencing, 52-year-old Cynthia L. Rawlinson, of Santa Barbara, was sentenced to five years of supervised release. She was a salesperson who also served as a manager for American Standard for a brief period of time.

Earlier in 2019, two other American Standard sales representatives from Santa Barbara, 50-year-old Mark A. Phillips and 37-year-old Semjase E. Santana, were also sentenced to five years of supervised release.

In June 2018, Carlynne L. Davis, 34, of Lompoc, Calif., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with her participation in American Standard. Her sentencing hearing was scheduled for April 5, 2019.

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 Office of the Honorable Joyce E. Dudley, district attorney for Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Maria Office of the FBI assisted in the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott A. Verseman.

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