Michael Davenport, former bassist for rock band The Ataris, has been indicted for scamming 100,000 people out of $27 million over the course of seven years.
He and his accomplice, Cynthia Rawlinson, have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and one count of mail fraud, with possible jail sentences of up to 30 years, according to reports by Vice News and NPR.
Court documents said Davenport frauded consumers through his business American Standard, which he allegedly founded in 2009 in Santa Barbara, California.
“The company placed ads on Craigslist that purported to show “pre-foreclosure” houses for sale at below-market prices. When individuals responding to the ads called American Standard, salespersons told they them they needed to pay a $199 fee to access the complete property information. … Prosecutors allege that after victims paid the $199 fee, they would learn the houses on American Standard’s list were either not for sale, or no homes existed at the addresses provided.”
Prosecutors said American Standard customer service reps would spend the majority of their time calming angry homeowners who wondered why their homes were listed on American Standard or explaining to consumers why the listing they wanted to purchase wasn’t actually for sale.
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When confronted by consumers, American Standard said the homeowner was “too embarrassed” to admit their home was for sale due to financial difficulties.
American Standard has earned an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau and racked up 235 consumer complaints over the past three years, according to a 2016 report by The Santa Barbara Independent. American Standard has operated under more than 12 business names. One of them — Anchor House Financial — had 141 complaints during the same time three-year period.
Davenport and Rawlinson were arraigned on January 17 in East Saint Louis, Illinois, and their plea is unknown.