Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Update - Feds to release millions of dollars seized from owner of internet company, 'Ad Surf Daily'
Federal prosecutors say they are now prepared to begin disbursement of more than $14M (fourteen million dollars) they have seized from an internet marketing company owned by Quincy, Florida businessman Andy Bowdoin.
The company, Golden Panda, offers members a way to make money by advertising online and pays them each time they click on another advertiser's website. The US Attorney General's office calls the business model a 'ponzi scheme' and that is why it has also seized $53M (fifty three million dollars) of assets from 'Ad Surf Daily' (ASD), another similar internet company also owned by Bowdoin. ASD is estimated to have approximately 125,000 members nationwide who have invested money in the company.
US Department of Justice Senior Trial Attorney William R. Cowden says the government will begin disbursement of the funds as soon as members are able to prove how much they actually lost. He states, "the government recently became owner of the Golden Panda funds, and it can now pursue cost effective mechanisms to remit funds to Golden Panda victims."
Cowden says he is also confident the Department of Justice will win its pending legal case against Bowdoin and ASD. When that happens he says the government will distribute those assets to ASD members accordingly.
Despite what the government has announced, there are hundreds of ASD members who still support the company. Iowa resident Julie Van Zee doesn't understand why the government seized ASD's assets in the first place, "I was just trying to make an honest living and they stole from many hard working people."
Van Zee heard about ASD from a friend who is also a member. Van Zee supports ASD and its CEO stating, "Andy Bowdoin and his wife are very honest people who may have made a few honest mistakes...and only wanted to help others grow their businesses."
Cowden doesn't see it that way. He wants to clear up any confusion about what is happening to the money seized from Bowdoin and ASD. Cowden says, "I see from one of the comments on your blog a recurring complaint that the government has been holding a person’s money for over a year now and should just give it back to the person. Unfortunately, this person’s money became Andy Bowdoin’s money when he or she voluntarily gave it to Bowdoin/ASD. The government is using the civil forfeiture cases to strip ownership away from Bowdoin and move it to the government. You might explain that the government can’t give money it doesn’t own back to anyone. Perfecting ownership is the point of pursuing court orders forfeiting ASD/Bowdoin & Golden Panda/Busby property to the government as the law permits."
Below is the July 27th press release describing the current legal status of Golden Panda and ASD. I will be posting new updates as they come in.
Channing D. Phillips
Acting United States Attorney
District of Columbia
555 Fourth St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
July 27, 2009 Update
Golden Panda Ad Builder
In two related civil forfeiture cases now pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the Department of Justice (through the United States Attorney's Office) has alleged that funds and assets either seized from several Internet-based businesses (“Ad Surf Daily,” “La Fuente Dinero” and “Golden Panda Ad Builder”) or traceable to those operations, constituted proceeds of one or more federal criminal offenses. Specifically, the government alleged that each of these three so-called auto-surf businesses, which had promised income opportunities to their paying members, were actually “Ponzi” schemes that used new members’ money to pay income to earlier members in violation of the federal wire fraud and securities fraud statutes. Under federal law, proceeds of wire and securities fraud offenses are forfeitable to the Unite States. On July 24, 2009, the United States District Court issued an order forfeiting $14,048,598.07 to the government. This amounted to most of the funds that the government seized from bank accounts maintained by operators of the Golden Panda Ad Builder operation. Thus, the government now has perfected its title to these former Golden Panda funds, and it is now able to begin the process of remitting forfeited property to victims of the Golden Panda fraud scheme. Individuals who sent money to Golden Panda Ad Builder, and who suffered a pecuniary loss, will need to file petitions for remission or mitigation of the forfeiture with the Department of Justice. Under Section 9.8(a)(1) and (2) of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations, in a petition for remission or mitigation of forfeiture a non-owner victim must demonstrate that it suffered a pecuniary loss of a specific amount directly caused by the criminal offense(s) underlying the forfeiture, or a related offense, and that the loss is the direct result of the criminal acts. In the near future, the Department of Justice will endeavor to contact former Golden Panda members with information about how they may properly file petitions for remission or mitigation with the Department (in writing and under oath). The Department will publish information on this website and also will provide information by email to potential petitioners identified to it. At this time, the United States does not have access to funds or property seized from or related to the Ad Surf Daily and La Fuente Dinero operations. The government’s effort to perfect those forfeitures remains under challenge.
Here is a link to the Attorney General's civil complaint filed against ASD in August, 2008