A California woman has admitted to her role in a nationwide telemarketing real estate scam that victimized more than 100,000 people to the tune of more than $25 million, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois.
Cynthia Rawlinson pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.
Michael Davenport, the former bass player for the rock band The Ataris, who masterminded the scam, pleaded guilty to similar charges earlier this month.
Rawlinson admitted that she worked for several years as a salesperson, eventually being promoted to sales manager, for Davenport’s American Standard business.
From approximately January 2009 through at least Oct. 5, 2016, Rawlinson participated in American Standard’s scheme of placing ads on Craigslist to list certain houses for sale or rent at very favorable prices. However, the houses described in the ads did not exist.
American Standard told consumers who responded to the ads that they would have to purchase the company’s list of houses for a $199 fee before they could see any additional information. The scheme also involved telling consumers that the houses on the list were in "pre-foreclosure" and could be purchased by taking over the homeowners’ mortgage payments.
After paying, customers learned that the houses were not available to be purchased as some were fictional or were not actually in pre-foreclosure or financial distress.
Rawlinson is set to be sentenced in January. Since the crimes involved telemarketing and victimized 10 or more people over the age of 55, Rawlinson could receive as much as 30 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 under the federal SCAMS Act. She may also be ordered to pay restitution to the victims.