Crime - Sacto 911

Did Dixon movie studio fraud suspect try to raise defense funds on GoFundMe?

Carissa Carpenter is due back in court Thursday for a possible guilty plea in her movie studio fraud case, but as recently as May was rejecting the possibility of accepting a “dirty plea deal” and purportedly was seeking funds to mount a strong defense.

Carpenter, 55, is the subject of a 7-week-old online Gofundme.com page aimed at raising $100,000 for the legal challenges she faces over her efforts to find investors for a movie studio project in Dixon and other Northern California cities.

The effort, entitled “Help Carissa Stop Bank Corruption,” purports to have been posted on her behalf and includes a four-page plea for help in avoiding what the online effort refers to as a “dirty plea deal.”

“I cannot and will not take a plea deal for something I did not do,” the statement reads.

The fundraising effort, which was created May 17 but has yet to attract a single contribution, is notable because since its posting Carpenter has signed an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to three of the 32 felony counts she faces in connection with the movie studio efforts.

The Dixon effort collapsed in 2013 following a Sacramento Bee investigation that revealed Carpenter was pushing the $2.8 billion project despite the fact that she owned no property, was the target of more than $1 million in unpaid court-ordered judgments and had been accused of failing to pay numerous debts for years.

She subsequently was indicted, and prosecutors say Carpenter siphoned off millions of dollars from investors between 1997 and 2014, using the money for her extravagant lifestyle and lying to the FBI about it when confronted.

She was due to face trial starting Aug. 7, but signed the plea agreement July 5 and appeared in court the next day to formally enter her guilty plea.

Before that could occur, however, she questioned aspects of the agreement she had signed, insisted she was being blamed for “things I did not do” and, ultimately, appeared to faint. The incident marked the second time in seven months that she has appeared to collapse during court proceedings.

Paramedics took her away in an ambulance and the hearing was rescheduled for Thursday before U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr.

The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the Gofundme page, and court-appointed Carpenter attorney John Manning did not respond to a request for comment.

Carpenter has tried to fire Manning but been rebuffed by the judge, and the Gofundme page takes aim at him for alleged “unethical behaviors” and because “he has done absolutely nothing to protect my safety or defend my innocence.”

The page, which includes two photos of Carpenter and provides her address at the Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump, Nev., where she has been held, tells visitors that “I am desperately in need of your help.”

The page says she fired two of her previous attorneys “because I believe they were not working in my best interest” and recounts a litany of health ailments she faces that have created a “life and death situation.”

Carpenter has blamed health woes for years for some of her difficulties, and also has asserted that she has been the target of a conspiracy by big banks, including Wells Fargo.

The Gofundme page asserts that her efforts to “stop big bank corruptions” were thwarted by the FBI when she was arrested in October 2014.

“Another example of our failed justice system became apparent when I was arrested,” the four-page statement reads. “I was due to testify against Wells Fargo in their fraudulent banking scandal and the very next day the FBI raided my home which prevented me from doing so...”

Carpenter has long blamed Wells Fargo for identity theft issues she claims she has suffered and last year told her Los Angeles landlord that “Wells Fargo was framing her,” according to an FBI interview with the landlord filed in court documents.

She also told her landlord that the bank “is trying to kill her,” had cut her brake lines, hacked into her email and “bought out” her defense attorney, the FBI documents say.

Carpenter spent years peddling her dream of building a movie studio in various Northern California communities and in South Carolina, attracting investors with claims of backing by Hollywood A-listers such as Star Wars creator George Lucas. Lucas’ office has said he has no connection to her.

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