After nearly two and a half years of investigations and millions of dollars worth of property seizures, Thomas A. Bowdoin, 76, founder and operator of a Gadsden County-based company has been indicted.
A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C indicted Bowdoin on wire fraud, securities fraud and other federal charges in connection with his business AdSurf Daily (ASD), a reported Ponzi scheme. Published reports by Tulsa Today resulted in the group canceling a planned sales rally in Tulsa just prior to a raid in Flordia by the U.S. Secret Service.
If convicted, Bowdoin faces a maximum sentence of 125 years in prison and fines of up to $6.2 million.
He was arrested at his home in Zellwood, Florida and appeared in federal court in Tampa on December 2.
A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to separate investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from any actual profit earned.
ASD was based in Quincy until federal agents seized all of its assets in 2008.
The Department of Justice’s press release concerning the indictment stated that the Internet-based fraud scheme had generated more than $110 million from thousands of people across the United States and other countries.
In an explanation of the indictment the press release stated: “The indictment alleges that Bowdoin ran a Ponzi scheme disguised as an online advertising company that drew in large numbers of investors by promising huge returns on their monies.”
It further states, because ASD was creating no significant new wealth by selling advertising to purchasers outside of its investor-members, the only wealth gained by any participant and Bowdoin was wealth lost by other (new) participants.
Bowdoin operated ASD from September of 2006 until August of 2008.
It was noted in the indictment that the goal of the scheme was for Bowdoin to obtain, by fraud, money from ASD members for his own benefit and to avoid securities regulators.
ASD operated on the Internet at various websites. The indictment states that although Bowdoin presented ASD as an online advertising company, in reality he was running an investment Ponzi scheme.
Bowdoin claimed ASD was an “income opportunity,” the indictment stated.
Bowdoin also referred to himself as a “money magnet,” and encouraged prospective ASD members to refer to themselves that way as well, and stated that it was his “goal” to make 100,000 millionaires in three years.”
In order to avoid regulatory scrutiny, the indictment stated Bowdoin referred to ASD’s investors as “members,” and referred to the investor’s money, payment and investment principle as “ad packages.”
He referred to the return on the member’s investment that ASD promised and paid as “rebates.”
Under the program, Bowdoin, through ASD, agreed to pay a return of 125% (initially 150%) on each dollar each member provided to ASD, as long as each member agreed to view a couple of websites themselves for a couple of minutes each day.
Bowdoin also promised to pay commissions to members who referred others to join ASD. In addition, the indictment stated Bowdoin raised more than $110 million from thousands of its “members.”
In reference to how the money was used, the indictment stated that more than $31 million of that revenue was used to make payments to early members, more than $8 million to operate ASD and promote ASD to subsequent members and more than $1 million for his own personal benefit or the benefit of his family.
The money Bowdoin spent was not coming from actual revenues. Of the $31 million that Bowdoin paid to these early members, more than 98% came from monies paid to ASD by other members, the indictment stated.
It was reported back in 2008 in Tulsa Today.