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7 Takeaways From Our Investigative Podcast 'California City'

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I'm a reporter for KPCC and LAist, and I spent years investigating a decades-long, deceptive real estate sales pitch in the small Mojave Desert town of California City.

Now that my 8-episode podcast is finally out, I wanted to break down what I learned.

Here are my main takeaways:

  1. California City was founded by Nat Mendelsohn, a Czechoslovakian immigrant with a vision to build a city from scratch in the desert.
  2. Mendelsohn's sales tactics drew the attention of Ralph Nader and got the company in serious trouble with the Federal Trade Commission.
  3. After Mendelsohn's company went bankrupt, a former employee quietly continued selling vacant land in California City.
  4. In 2011, that company, Silver Saddle Ranch & Club, transitioned from selling vacant desert lots to selling shares of a confusing real estate investment called "landbanking."
  5. Silver Saddle targeted a very specific type of customer: Latino, Filipino and Chinese people, most of whom lived in California and often spoke English as a second language.
  6. The California Department of Business Oversight charged Silver Saddle with fraud and shut the company down in 2019.
  7. It's unlikely the people who invested with Silver Saddle will get their money back.


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