The former bass player for the rock band The Ataris has pleaded guilty in connection with his masterminding of a real-estate scam that bilked more than 100,000 people and netted more than $25 million.
Michael S. Davenport, 50, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, according to the Department of Justice. Davenport admitted to owning and operating a telemarketing business that scammed thousands of prospective homebuyers and renters between 2009 and 2016. The business changed names several times over the years, but is referred to in court documents as “American Standard.”
The scam was deceptively simple. American Standard posted ads on Craigslist that listed houses for sale or rent at low prices. Consumers who responded to the ads were told that the houses on the list were in “pre-foreclosure” and could be purchased simply by taking over the homeowner’s mortgage payments. Consumers were told that they would have to purchase American Standard’s list of houses for $199 in order to find more information on the homes. The $199 fee was supposedly to cover the costs of title searches and deed transfers. No matter where in the country the consumer lived, American Standard salespeople said that the list included numerous “pre-foreclosure” properties in their area.
After customers paid the $199 fee, however, they found that the houses on the list weren’t actually available for purchase – and a substantial number didn’t even exist.
Davenport admitted that the scam defrauded more than 100,000 people. The victims were located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Justice Department. All told, Davenport and his co-conspirators raked in more than $25 million.
Earlier this year, three of Davenport’s employees also pleaded guilty to participating in the scam. Charges are still pending against Cynthia L. Rawlinson, a sales manager in American Standard’s Santa Barbara, Calif., office.
Davenport’s sentencing is scheduled for December. He could receive up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He may also be ordered to pay restitution to his victims. His plea agreement requires him to forfeit more than $853,000 from his merchant processing accounts, as well as $79,000 in cash seized from him last July.
The Ataris are best known for their 2003 cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.” The song specifically condemns the selling out of youthful idealism for middle-aged materialism.