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Saturday, August 15, 2009

A man and his mission to take down an internet marketing giant

Ad Surf Daily and its CEO, Andy Bowdoin, are in the crosshairs of federal investigators who seized $53 Million from the company....money that belonged to thousands of investors who still feel the company is a legitimate business.

When Jack Arons retired from Hewlett Packard as a Master Technician he wanted to acquire a new hobby to keep himself busy. He wasn’t interested in assembling model airplanes or collecting baseball cards, instead he decided to become a consumer watchdog. Arons says it all began one day in July 2008 when his friend told him about a company that developed a great new way to make money.

Arons says his friend was eager to tell him how he and his mother had both invested $1,000 in ASD because they were told they could make a profit of up to $9,000 per month. The company was called Ad Surf Daily or ‘ASD’. Jack’s friend said ASD members make money by surfing the web and simply clicking on various sites.
The formula essentially works like this: ASD members are known as ‘advertisers’ who pay a membership fee to have their websites displayed to other viewers through ASD’s website. ASD pays these advertisers a "rebate" for viewing fellow advertisers' web pages and encourages advertisers to recruit new advertisers by paying existing ones a referral fee.

Arons decided to find out more about the company so he visited ASD’s website where he says he found promises that its members were basically guaranteed huge returns on their investments.

“You can’t offer 110% return on money and expect it to be legit,” says Arons.

Instead of buying into the ASD program, Arons began digging deeper into the company’s history. He researched ASD’s CEO Andy Bowdoin and uncovered a long list of complaints.

One was filed in Federal Court in Washington, D.C. On August 5th, 2008. US Department of Justice Senior Trial Attorney William R. Cowden filed a civil complaint against Bowdoin and two of his companies, 'Golden Panda' and 'Ad Surf Daily' claiming they were both ‘ponzi schemes‘.

The complaint also detailed past criminal charges filed against Bowdoin for security fraud. The following is an excerpt from the court file:

“Just prior to concocting ASD, Bowdoin was arrested in Alabama for one or more felony violations related to Fraud in Connection with the Offer and Sale of Securities by an Unregistered Agent. Bowdoin and several co-defendants were accused of having been promoters of a company called "Mobile International, Inc." The Alabama defendants said they had developed a mobile telephone system that was a cheaper alternative to the then-current cellular systems. That venture collapsed and Bowdoin and his co-defendants were charged with having sold unregistered securities to investors and with failing to state material facts to the investors that would have impacted the victims' decisions to invest.

In particular, Alabama officials asserted that Bowdoin instigated a scheme by which he took money from some victims to pay off prior investors. On October 6, 1997, in Montgomery County, Bowdoin resolved this criminal matter by agreeing to enter Pre-Trial Diversion with three years of supervised probation and pay restitution of $1 5,000. Bowdoin completed his Pre-Trial requirements and the charges were dismissed. Furthermore, on January 1 1, 1999, in Wilcox County, Bowdain plead guilty to one count of sale of unregistered securities and was sentenced to 1 year in prison, however the sentence was suspended and he was placed on 3 years supervised probation and ordered to pay restitution of $75,000.”


Arons says he contacted Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s office to see if they were also interested in investigating ASD and Bowdoin since the company was headquartered in Florida. Arons claims the AG never responded, “I made 2 phone calls and sent 2 emails and didn’t hear anything.”


Instead of waiting for answers, Arons decided to post his concerns on the website ‘scam.com’ where he warned people about doing business with ASD.

He says he also confronted Andy Bowdoin at his corporate offices in Quincy, Florida. While there, he says employees refused to let him inside the building so he began taking photos of the exterior. According to Arons, it didn’t take long for Bowdoin to go outside and confront him. Arons wasn’t afraid to tell the CEO what he thought “he wanted to know why I was on his case and I told him he was a crook.”

Arons claims Bowdoin was so upset that he personally went to the Attorney General’s office to lodge a complaint against him. According to Arons, that very action is what sparked the AG’s interest in the case, “the Attorney General finally called me in to their office to talk about ASD and I was there for 6 hours.”
The following is the email Arons sent to the Attorney General's office:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Its in your hands
From: Selisa Beville (Selisa.Beville@myfloridalegal.com)
Date: Fri, August 01, 2008 2:38 pm
To: jackarons@bigbendcrimes.com

Hi Jack -

Thank you for the information provided to date. I look forward to meeting
you!

Selisa Beville, AIC, CFE
Financial Investigator
Economic Crimes Division
Office of the Attorney General
Tallahassee, FL 32399
850-414-3300


At that point the Florida Attorney General's office began its investigation. The AG quickly determined Bowdoin’s business model was indeed a 'ponzi scheme' and the US Attorney's Office soon seized $53M (fifty three million dollars) from several Bank of America accounts Bowdoin says were designated to maintain ASD funds.

In total the federal government seized $53M (fifty three million dollars) of assets from 'Ad Surf Daily' (ASD) and $14M from Golden Panda, another similar company they say was controlled by Bowdoin. In late July, 2009 the US Attorney General’s office completed its investigation and officials say they were able to convince Bowdoin to release Golden Panda’s assets to the government. US Department of Justice Senior Trial Attorney William R. Cowden maintains that Bowdoin voluntarily ‘walked away’ from his claim on the money after reviewing the Government’s evidence against him. Cowden asserts Bowdoin was never offered any deals and is still subject to criminal charges.

Cowden says the government will begin disbursement of the Golden Panda funds to members as soon as members are able to prove how much they actually lost. A website has been developed to help Golden Panda members to claim their funds, it is www.usdoj.gov/usao/dc/Victim_Witness_Assistance/adsurfdaily.html
or they can email information to the Department at usadc.adsurfdaily@usdoj.gov .

The feds say they will do the same for ASD members if and when they successfully obtain ownership of those funds.

Although ASD is still embroiled in legal issues, there are many supporters of the company. An estimated 125,000 members nationwide invested money in ASD and many are still hopeful the government will drop its case and allow business to continue.


Bruce Disner purchased $1,000 of advertising 'packs' during an ASD rally in Miami, Florida. His brother, Todd, bought $2,500 worth of ad space with the company. Disner says he began making money immediately, “our income was coming out to a 1% daily return based on the amount of AD Packs you have. $400.00 for me and $3800.00 daily for Todd.”
Unlike many ASD members, Todd Disner says he took some of his money out of his ASD account before the Feds seized it and was able to walk away with a hefty profit of $59,000. Disner says ASD readily paid its members and if Bowdoin was corrupt “he would have taken the money and ran.”

Susan Leiker lives in Denver, Colorado and also invested in ASD. She still doesn’t believe the company was doing anything illegal. “My interpretation of a ‘Ponzi’ is where new people paid the old members. There are hundreds of surfers on the internet today. Everyone gets paid, no matter when they join. The same was true for ASD. You buy your units, view ads, and get paid.”

Since the seizure of ASD’s assets, people like Leiker have been struggling to make ends meet, “Thousands of people are trying to make an honest living online. Many of which are disabled and can't work outside of the home, others are mothers or fathers who want to raise their kids and not let strangers raise them.”

At this point ASD members don’t know if or when they will get any of their money back. If the pending Federal case against ASD convinces Bowdoin to release ASD’s total assets of $53M (fifty three million dollars) the US Attorney General’s office promises to distribute them in the same manner as Giant Panda. The distribution process is expected to be lengthy and complicated, as members will have to provide clear documentation of how much money they spent. Those documents will then be reviewed by the government for authentication and approval.

As ASD members await the outcome of the US Attorney General’s investigation, Bowdoin remains silent. The deadline for the US Attorney General to produce evidence implicating ASD is August 28, 2009 and it will likely affect Bowdoin’s decision regarding what he will do with the assets.

It’s a decision that could trigger a devastating financial fallout for thousands of ASD members. Many like Susan Leiker lost their life savings when the Feds seized the company, “I am now fighting to save my home and I had to do a bankruptcy.”


Mike Mason – Investigative Reporter
Investigative Reporting Video Resume: http://bit.ly/Z512e
Blog: http://investigativereportermikemason.blogspot.com/

14 comments:

  1. I want to cry. Alot of people make it sound like all you had to do was surf a certain amount of sites and you made money. Yes that was true,but our family realized that if we really wanted to make money we had to treat it like a business. Not only did we surf we had businesses advertized on the website.We had daily and weekly meetings about how to run our business.I believed and still believe in the company. I would not hesitate to be involved with a company with the concept. We are adults and it was our choice.The same as if we go to a store and buy a product.It's our choice. The goverment saved us from what? My Dad is 82 years old and he lost 20,000.00.how did the goverment help him? He just wanted to try and make it better for my Mom. But its to late for my Mom,she passed away November 25 2008

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  2. I'm not sure when, or if, ASD became a "marketing giant". How many marketing giants keep all of the money in personal bank accounts? How many allow people to put in their life savings, college funds, retirement funds to purchase advertising for a small business? How many small businesses buy $100k of advertising on a website?

    Jo-anne, I am very sorry to hear about your Mom; I lost my Mom too. I lost money also, but it was an investment, no matter how much they told people not to call it that. And you don't invest what you cannot afford to lose.

    Your best bet is to file a civil suit against your sponsor and their upline to get your money back from them. Lots of the top people knew exactly what was going on and took your money anyway to line their own pockets.

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  3. Hello again, Mr. Mason;

    In this post you refer to “…money that belonged to thousands of investors…”

    Again I remind you, sir, that the “members” of ASD were deemed by ASD’s own Terms of Service (ToS) to be advertisers, not investors, for use of the words investor or investment was feared to be reason for the SEC to accuse ASD of selling unregistered securities.

    Furthermore, the ToS clearly states that the money spent for advertising purchases were non-refundable after 3 days. Thus, by virtue of the agreement made between members and ASD via the ToS, it’s incorrect to say that the money belongs to the “members”. They gave up ownership 3 days after paying ASD.

    Here’s the relevant paragraph from ASD’s ToS:

    "All payments made to ASD are considered advertising purchases, not investments or deposits of any kind. All sales are final. ASD does not guarantee any earnings. All rebates paid to advertisers are for the service of viewing other advertiser's web sites. All commissions are for referring advertisers to ASD. All advertising purchases are non-refundable after the passing of the 3 days right of rescission."

    For that same reason, fear that the SEC would accuse ASD of selling unregistered securities, the use of the terms investor and investment were widely and adamantly criticized when used by posters on various blogs and forums while ASD was in operation.

    Some "members" of ASD may, indeed, be victims. (Others were knowingly involved in an illegal enterprise and cannot correctly be called victims.) However, since ASD/Bowdoin are free, even today, to deliver the advertising anytime they wish to do so, “members” are victims of ASD/Andy Bowdoin's failure to do so, not the authorities involved.

    Bottom line: The authorities’ are not preventing ASD from delivering the promised advertising, for their issues have to do not with the delivery of advertising, but with other issues as spelled out in the legal filings.

    Respectfully,

    PWD

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  4. I am not sure that Andy Bowdoin is the one who is in control of what happens to the assets sent to ASD by the members, held in his many personal accounts and which are the subject of the forfeiture.

    I strongly suspect that the one who will make that decision is Judge Rosemary Collyer and it is highly unlikely, on all current evidence, that she will return them to his loving care. It far more likely that it will be the US Government organizing the disbursement of the ASD funds that they have been able to get hold of. They have expressed their intentions to return it, together with any monies clawed back from the "winners" and "insider" promoters, pro rata, to the Victims of Andy Bowdoin and his colleagues.

    In view of the information that has come to light since August 2008 about Andy Bowdoin's real background and that of some of his colleagues, we should be thankful that at least some of the monies are in safe hands.

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  5. Andy is a born scammer and stole millions from innocent people! He let his family and friends get in for free and cash out for 100's of 1000's of dollars for no investment. I tried to cash-out several times and they kept telling me I had to send in my tax info (which I had 4 times already) but would not give me my money! All a bunch of liars and they will set up shop again after this is over under a different name I am sure!!

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  6. I think you will find that they already did set up shop under a different name - try AVGA. You remember? The company in Uruguay which had nothing to do with Andy Bowdoin, even though it is run by his step-con and wife (ex ASD staff member, Judy Harris). And if that is not enough, it is being run and promoted by the ex ASD gang.
    You will all remember Judy Harris from her now infamous comment that "Andy would never do anything to damage his relationship with our Lord" Although one suspects that his relationship with "our Lord" was already so badly damaged when he started ASD, that it is difficult to imagine it getting any worse.

    And there are Biz Ad Splash (Clarence Busby) and AdGate World , all run or promoted by ex-ASD gang members (and dont forget the now defunct Megalido)

    We might be lucky this time - if the Government takes the ASD scheme as seriously as it appears to be doing - we may find that some of the people behind ASD, Bowdoin and family included, are unable to start up any new schemes under different names, unless they allow them computer and banking access from jail.

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  7. Above Jo-anne states that her father lost some 20k and the response is "you don't invest what you can't afford to lose"? TRUE, BUT: The company didn't fail the government seized a legal business! Did you sponsor anyone LEO? Did you line your pockets? I think Bill Maher said it best, and surely had people like you in mind when he stated "Just because we elected a smart president does not make us a smart Country"! over 50% of Americans believe that death panels, gov. paid abortions, and coverage for illegal aliens are a part of the health care proposal! Not to mention the 25% that support the "birther movement" ( Obama is not a native to The United States) despite production of a birth certificate from the state! The fact remains that some people would still believe that our President was born in Kenya no matter what. TO quote Maher again: "Never underestimate the ability of a tiny fringe group of losers to ruin everything. For the past couple of weeks we’ve all been laughing heartily at the wacky antics of the “birthers”—the far-right goofballs who claim Obama wasn’t really born in Hawaii and therefore the job of president goes to the runner-up, Miss California Carrie Prejean. And there’s nothing you can do to convince these people—you could hand them, in person, the original birth certificate, with the placenta, and have a video of Obama emerging from the womb with Don Ho singing in the background and they still wouldn’t believe it". I see the same stupidity with ASD. Fact after fact disproves that ASD did anything wrong, and you respond back with a resounding " yuh huh"! PUUUULEEEEASE TAKE YOUR BALL AND GO HOME!

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  8. Mike, Let it be known that yes 53 million dollars was seized from ASD. What seems to have been lost in the shuffle is the 40 million dollars in funds in the form of unyet deposited monies that where physically in the ASD office. This 40 million dollars in various forms was cashed and/or deposited into the Treasury (instead of used as evidence) so that it could be swept under the rug. So in reality the fact is that a grand total of 93 MILLION DOLLARS was seized the day of the seizure! So to reiterate this 93 million included ASD member funds( in ASD Accounts), New funds from exsisting members(cashier checks money orders etc in the ASD Office), and new funds from new members(also Cashiers checks, money orders etc in the ASD Office)!

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  9. Japeth: You must be a liberal...You actually believe in that thing in the White House.

    None of his records are available, but that's all right? He's nothing but a fraud.

    He should be taken out of the WH handcuffed. He's an arrogant narcissist. And half of the country feels the same way as I do.

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  10. Mike,
    This started off as a CIVIL Forfiture and has morphed into a CRIMIMAL case. The governent is riding two horses.
    Look at Rule 983 and Civil Fofieture Rule 2000.
    How do cowden and collyer explain that?
    Does Andy's past make him a criminal for LIFE?
    Look also at THE RITE OF ATTAINER.
    We all have been punished without the benefit of a TRIAL. Is this OUR America? 15 MONTHS!

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  11. Andy was intitled to a PAY CHECK.
    His company made $93 Million in less that 2 years. It took years and $$ to develop.
    I would buy a few things my self.

    Why would he knowingly pattern his new business after previous companies that were closed for violations??

    Andy's intent was honorable until proven not.

    I talke a number of times with cowden and taylor.
    They have NO idea about business. They are LAWYERS!

    He think when you buy an ad from ASD it is an account payable and Andy owes the 125% immediatly.

    He told me that there was not enough money to pay that back.

    I told him is was a "payable" when and only when it was earned by viewing. (approx 1% a day plus what had accumulated in our accounts)

    cowden is a dangerous man. NAIVE!!!
    I am posting "anonymous" for a good reason.

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  12. cowden says it takes future sales to sustain ASD.

    What business does not depent on future sales?

    They just closed a CHURCH in the neighborhood for lack of attendence.
    It must have been a Church of ST. Ponzi

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  13. cowden said that the ads were worthless....

    If I sold one bag of PEANUTS as a result of someone viewing my site, I have value.

    cowden is NAIVE!

    He said that we didnt work hard enough to earn that type of income.

    He must be running for WORK CZAR!

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  14. Amazing how simple it can be to communicate with people and have them understand a certain topic, you made my day.

    SEO Los Angeles

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