In 2017, Ben Perez went to a Mojave Desert resort for a free vacation and ended up signing away his life savings.
He was sold on an idea that a mostly uninhabited, sun-baked desert city might one day become the next Palm Springs, the next Silicon Valley. It turned out Perez is one of tens of thousands of people who've been drawn into this mirage for decades.
The new podcast "California City" follows award-winning journalist Emily Guerin in uncovering the mind-boggling history of a place made up of sprawling suburbs ... with no houses. A place where empty desert land is presented as a ticket to the American Dream.
For decades, real estate developers have gotten rich by selling this fever dream to thousands of people, many of whom are hard-working immigrants looking to build a better future.
But the reality is much different.
The land investments never paid off, and the landowners — many of whom scraped together their life savings to buy a plot of land — were left with next to nothing.
California City is just a few miles north of Edwards Air Force Base.
It's the third-largest city in the state by land area, but the population stood at only 14,120 in the last census. It's a one-bar town surrounded by a vast layout of unpaved streets, filled with people too afraid to talk about the heart of the problem.