Carissa Carpenter, who had Dixon bedazzled last year over a purported $2 Billion movie studio project, will be in Federal Court in Sacramento next Thursday, November 20, to respond to a 32 count indictment for fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and lying to the FBI and IRS criminal investigators .
The indictment was filed on October 30, but was sealed until her arrest Wednesday, November 5 in Ventura County. If convicted Carpenter faces up to 20 years in federal prison and up to $250,000 in fines, and forfeiture of any ill-gotten gains.
In the indictment, the government charges that Carpenter began scheming in 1997 and continued through 2014 to defraud investors with a “Movie Studio” scam. Over that period of time, it is charged, Carpenter bilked investors and well as “various businesses and and municipalities” a collective total of at least $5 million.
Counts in the indictment include her claim “the project would be profitable, environmentally firendsly, and was supported by well-connected individuals in the entertainment industry.”
Over those years, she promoted the project El Dorado Hills, Sutter County, Lathrop, Mare Island, Crows Landing, Fairfield, and Dixon. The Dixon project was touted as a $2.8 Billion Movie Studio known as “Morning Vie.”
Another count was falsely telling investors that she had put hundreds of millions of her own money into the project, but in fact used investor money for her personal expenses.”
A key part of her scam was to build her credibility by obtaining public support from public officials. In Dixon’s case, the City Council held a special meeting to formally announce the City would expedite permits and licensing.
According to several property owners in the targeted area, city officials – including the City Manager and council members – pressured them to sell their land for below market prices, or the city would alter their development rights so the land could not be used for anything but agriculture.
The property owners were also chastised by some local residents who complained they were “putting Dixon’s future at risk.” At least one property owner received anonymous phone calls criticizing them.
Former Dixon Economic Manager Michael Gus commented: “The arrest of Carissa Carpenter is not surprising. City officials clearly knew as early as June 2012 that her proposed studio was illegitimate.”
Gus further stated “Mark Heckey, my predecessor, had compiled a vetting file that was quite thorough. While Economic Development Manager for the City, I read it several times. The city now denies the file existed. I remain convinced that resigning – rather than write staff reports praising a project which I knew to be a scam – was my finest hour as a public servant.”
When the Independent Voice (IV) filed a Public Records request with the City for copies of communications between city officials and Carpenter related to the project, that request was denied with the claim they concerned negotiations for real estate and were exempt.
The City also denied those records requested by the Sacramento Bee – but the Bee was able to obtain them through other confidential sources.
When the IV began asking critical questions about Carpenter and the project, she refused to provide further information to the paper. Instead she publicly stated she would only provide information to another Vallejo-owned publication which is distributed to a minimal number of Dixon residences. The other publication became the de facto mouthpiece for Carpenter in Dixon – offering no challenge to her claims.
(The IV is printed by the Sacramento Bee, but has no other connection with the IV.)
The Sacramento Bee assigned extensive resources to investigate Carpenter and the alleged “movie studio” project. The result was an expose on five full pages – including the front page – of an edition of the Bee.
FBI agents in their Sacramento office then began their own investigation, which resulted in a Grand Jury passing a “true bill” indictment.
One of Carpenter’s targets for funding was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 180 union. Union officials had considered investing retirement funds in the project. Former Dixon councilman Mike Smith was and is active in that union.
According to the Bee, “Dixon Mayor Jack Batchelor and City Manager Jim Lindley, who enthusiastically embraced Carpenter’s plans, did not respond to requests for comment.”
More and extensive details are available on the Sacramento Bee’s news web site at: