Former Ataris Bassist Arrested in Alleged $27 Million Real Estate Scam

Michael Davenport faces 30 years in prison if convicted of charges of wire and mail fraud from telemarketing scheme

Former Ataris bassist Michael Davenport was arrested in late December for his role in a $27 million real estate scam. Credit: Ian Dickson/REX Shutterstock

A former bassist of the punk group the Ataris was arrested in late December for his role in a $27 million real estate scam.

News of Michael Davenport's arrest spread this week ahead of the bassist's scheduled court date Wednesday. Davenport and his partner Cynthia Rawlinson were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, the Santa Barbara Independent reports. If convicted, Davenport faces 30 years in prison.

The grand jury charges – filed at the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in December – accuse Davenport and his telemarketing firm American Standard of victimizing "over 100,000 people" and defrauding "these individuals out of more than $27,000,000" from 2009 to 2016.

The charges allege that Davenport, who served as bassist in the Ataris from 1995 to 2004 before co-founding the group Versus the World, oversaw a scheme that offered customers "access to American Standard's list of houses that were in pre-foreclosure or financial distress" for $199.

However, the listings were allegedly "false and misleading" and often "fictional and/or no houses existed at the locations indicated." When the customer attempted to have their money refunded, American Standard made it so that it was "virtually impossible to satisfy" requests for refunds.

"For example, American Standard required customers to mail in letters, signed by the owners of five of the houses on the listing, stating that the customers had viewed their houses," the suit claims. "These letters were very difficult to obtain from homeowners who had not placed their houses on American Standard's list and were not interested in selling their homes. These letters were impossible to obtain when the addresses on the list did not exist."

Additionally, when customers complained to their credit card companies, American Standard similarly fought against the "charge-backs."

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, the FBI raided American Standard's offices – a Lompoc call center and three Santa Barbara locations – in October 2016 following hundreds of complaints against the company. The grand jury adds that American Standard had allegedly fleeced victims in all 50 states.

$104,000 was seized at the time of Davenport's arrest at a Little Rock, Arkansas airport in December 2017. His personal bank account yielded another $850,000.

Attempts to reach Davenport were unsuccessful. Davenport, a Santa Barbara-area resident at the time of his arrest, served as bassist for the Ataris for nearly a decade. He performed on the band's biggest hit, a punk rendition of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer," as well as the 1999 album Blue Skies, Broken Hearts ... Next 12 Exits, one of Rolling Stone's 50 Greatest Pop-Punk Albums