A story for the "slipped right by us" file: Michael Davenport, a former bassist for turn-of-the-century pop-punk stalwarts The Ataris, was indicted in December by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Illinois of allegedly defrauding an astounding number of people — some 100,000, in every U.S. state (and the District of Columbia) — of $27 million over a period of seven years. Davenport and a co-worker were scheduled to be arraigned in East St. Louis, Ill., on Wednesday. The indictment, and the earlier raid on Davenport's office, were first reported by the Santa Barbara Independent.
The charges stem from the operations of American Standard, a company that Davenport is said to have founded in 2009 in Santa Barbara, Calif. American Standard would advertise housing for sale at far below market value, primarily through Craigslist. Once contacted by potential customers, American Standard would then sell those interested in purchasing a property its "listing of houses," according to the indictment, for $199, which also covered "title searches and deed transfers."
Customer service reps for the company were retained, the prosecutors claim, to essentially run interference on customers either interested in purchasing a property or incensed over the false listings they provided them, telling interested buyers that houses weren't available. The reps "spent most of their time fielding phone calls from angry customers and homeowners whose houses had been included on American Standard's list without their permission," according to the indictment. When customers would ask American Standard why the occupant of a house they were interested in purchasing had told them it wasn't actually for sale, employees would say the occupants were too embarrassed to talk about the financial difficulties they found themselves in.
Davenport was indicted alongside Cynthia Rawlinson, a salesperson for the company that was eventually promoted to a manager. He last joined his former band on a 2013 reunion tour in support of the band's best-known album, So Long, Astoria, during which time he would have, according to prosecutors, also been running the American Standard scam.
Davenport's attorney, Alan G. Karow, did not respond to a request for comment on what plea was entered during Wednesday's arraignment.