Business & Real Estate

Did quest to become a ‘baroness’ trip up movie studio promoter? Feds want her jailed

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to revoke bail for Carissa Carpenter, the would-be developer of a $2.8 billion movie studio in Dixon who has been free for nearly three years while she awaits trial on fraud charges.

Carpenter has violated the terms of her release in numerous ways, prosecutors allege. They say she bilked her landlord out of $20,000, raised money for a movie project under the name “Lady Carissa” and contacted some of her alleged fraud victims despite orders not to communicate with them, prosecutors said.

The motion to have Carpenter jailed pending trial was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and sheds new light on the inner workings of an increasingly bizarre case. The new accusations include more outlandish tales by Carpenter, hard-luck stories, name-dropping and fantastical promises of riches to come.

According to prosecutors, Carpenter convinced her Los Angeles landlord to give her $20,000, most of which she then wired to a man in Australia she claimed to have met through the Rockefeller family.

That man, she said, would serve as her lawyer because her attorney and others in Sacramento “had been bought out by Wells Fargo Bank, whom Carpenter claimed was trying to frame her,” according to court documents. Those documents also say Carpenter claimed the bank had cut her brake lines, hacked her email and was trying to kill her.

Carpenter also said she needed $700 from the landlord to purchase a cloak “as part of the process of becoming a baroness with the Knights Templar (which would confer on her diplomatic immunity)” and allow her to get out from under the charges against her, documents say.

Court officials also claim she violated the conditions of her release by moving to New York without telling them.

“The evidence firmly establishes that defendant Carissa Carpenter will not and cannot abide by the terms of release imposed by this court, and that her failure to do so not only jeopardizes her appearance at all proceedings but has also endangered the economic welfare of the public,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd Pickles and Rosanne Rust wrote in their motion to have Carpenter jailed.

Attorney John Manning, Carpenter’s third lawyer since the case began, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. A hearing in the matter has been scheduled for Monday.

Carpenter, who faces 32 felony counts that she bilked investors out of more than $5 million while promising to build various movie studio projects, has been free on $25,000 bail since her October 2014 indictment. Her trial date has been set for Aug. 7, 2018.

She spent 17 years traveling the country and collecting investor funds for proposed movie studio deals. She had been closing in on city approval of the Dixon project in 2012 until a Bee investigation of her activities derailed the project and led to her indictment on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and lying to the FBI.

Carpenter has a lengthy history of ignoring court order-ordered judgments and missing her court dates, often citing dramatic health issues, a practice that prosecutors say is continuing and includes a recent claim to have suffered a heart attack.

Carpenter had been living in Southern California under a requirement that she notify court officials whenever she left the state, and that she also inform pretrial service officers of any contact with law enforcement officials within 24 hours. She also had been given a list of at least 123 people she was not to contact because they were alleged victims, investors or witnesses in her case.

Despite that, prosecutors say, she began violating the terms of her release the day after her Nov. 20, 2014, arraignment when she “attempted to contact a victim and solicit money to aid in her defense.”

Prosecutors said they did not take action then because Carpenter had not yet been given the list of names and they wanted to give her “the benefit of the doubt.”

But this first violation “was only a sign of things to come,” prosecutors wrote in their motion.

FBI documents filed with court papers say Carpenter’s problems with her landlord, Joseph Garcia, began when she moved into his rental property in September 2016. Garcia met her through his best friend, Michael Matier, who was then Carpenter’s boyfriend and who had provided $5,000 of her bail.

“Matier and Carpenter were not getting along, and Carpenter needed a place to stay,” according to an FBI interview with Garcia filed in court. “Matier begged Garcia to provide Carpenter with a place to stay.”

Once she moved in, Carpenter convinced Garcia to loan her $20,000 to hire an “international lawyer” in Australia and said the money would be repaid shortly because the lawyer was “good for $32 million,” documents say.

When it wasn’t repaid, Garcia contacted Australian officials, the FBI interview says. They told him the man the money had been wired to was not an attorney. A Google search shows an individual by the name Garcia cited to the FBI appears to be connected to a Dutch-oven pizza restaurant.

Carpenter later told Garcia that she had found a man on Facebook who was going to work on a film with her, and that she wanted to hire Garcia as the set photographer, the FBI interview says.

“She was going to introduce herself as Lady Carissa,” the documents say. “She would not provide her last name so as not to jeopardize potential pledges/investments.”

While she was trying to get that project funded, she was living on $1,600 a month in disability and driving a Toyota Corolla she bought with the help of her ex-boyfriend, who co-signed for the purchase, documents say.

Earlier this month, Carpenter needed to move out because she had not repaid Garcia, court documents say, so she contacted an acquaintance to help. That person was on the list of individuals the government had told her not to contact, court documents say.

By Aug. 5, she was in Amarillo, Texas, where a state Department of Public Safety officer stopped her for speeding. He let her off with a warning after being called to a report of shots being fired elsewhere, but Carpenter failed to report the law enforcement stop within 24 hours as required by the conditions of her release.

Court authorities had approved her moving to Harrisburg, Penn., but officials say she embarked on a “multiday odyssey” across the country and moved twice this month without their permission.

Documents say she left her approved residence in Harrisburg over the weekend of Aug. 11-12 to travel to a home 275 miles away in Hannacroix, N.Y. Days later, on Aug. 16, Carpenter moved to Hudson, N.Y., 20 miles to the south, “again without permission from Pretrial Services,” documents say.

Her wooing of Dixon city officials in 2012 for the latest incarnation of her studio project – at least six earlier attempts had fizzled – has frustrated and angered some Dixon residents, who continue to show up at court hearings in Sacramento.

Sam Stanton: 916-321-1091, @StantonSam