California Telemarketer Sentenced to Prison for Nationwide Rental Listing Scam
Carlynne L. Davis, 34, of Lompoc, California, was sentenced on April 5 to 18 months in prison for her participation in a nationwide rental listing scam. Davis worked as a telemarketer at a business owned by Michael S. Davenport, 50, of Santa Barbara, California. Davenport is the former bass guitar player for the Ataris rock band. Last month, Davenport was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in the same fraud scam.
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 simply refer to the business as “American Standard.”
American Standard was a rental listing scam. From 2009 through 2016, American Standard defrauded over 100,000 would-be renters and home-buyers out of more than $25 million.
At his September 2018 guilty plea, Davenport admitted that American Standard placed ads on Craigslist stating that certain houses were available for sale or rent at very favorable prices. When individuals called in response to these ads, American Standard salespersons told them they would have to purchase American Standard’s list of houses in order to get more information about the property in the Craigslist ad. The salespersons also said that the houses on the American Standard list were in “pre-foreclosure,” that the customers could purchase the houses by simply taking over the homeowners’ mortgage payments, and the deeds to these homes would then be transferred into the customers’ names. The salespersons told the customers that there was a $199 fee for access to the list but claimed that this $199 fee would cover title searches and deed transfers. In addition, regardless of what area of the country the customers lived in, the salespersons told them that the list contained numerous pre-foreclosure properties that were available in their area.
After the customers paid the $199 fee, they learned that the houses on American Standard’s list were not available to be purchased. Instead, the customers found that a substantial number of the addresses contained on the list were fictional and/or no houses existed at those locations. In
numerous other cases, the customers learned that the houses were not in pre-foreclosure or financial distress, and were not available to be purchased at below market prices. If the customers asked for more information about the houses they had seen on Craigslist, American Standard’s Customer Service Department always informed them that the houses were no longer available.
American Standard’s victims were located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. At least 104 victims of the scam were located in 22 counties within the Southern District of Illinois, with multiple victims in both St. Clair and Madison Counties. In addition, American Standard’s list included 534 houses located in Southern Illinois.
Davis worked as a telemarketer for American Standard for approximately 2 years. She pled guilty to her role in the offense last June. At her sentencing hearing today, Chief United States District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel found that Davis personally defrauded over 1,000 victims out of more than $273,000. In addition to her prison sentence, Davis was also ordered to serve 5 years of supervised release.
Three other former American Standard employees have been prosecuted for participating in the fraud conspiracy. On January 28, 2019, Mark A. Phillips, 50, and Semjase E. Santana, 37, both of Santa Barbara, California, were each sentenced to serve 5 years of supervised release. Phillips and Santana both worked as telemarketers for American Standard. On March 6, 2019, Cynthia L. Rawlinson, 52, of Santa Barbara, was also sentenced to 5 years of supervised release. Rawlinson was a salesperson who also served as a manager for American Standard for a brief period of time.
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 have provided substantial assistance in the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Scott A. Verseman and Monica A. Stump.