Tulsa Today first reported in July of 2008 on a specific fraud within a clever Ponzi scheme headed to Tulsa. Just weeks later, the multi-national company closed as agents of the Secret Service and St. Cloud, Fla. IRS-Secret Service Task Force seized AdSurf Daily (ASD) assets and bank accounts pursuant to a court order.
Following years of additional seizures and court proceedings; on May 18, 2012 Thomas A. Bowdoin, Jr., also known as Andy Bowdoin (founder and operator of ASD) plead guilty to a federal charge of wire fraud stemming from the Internet-based advertising scheme that generated more than $110 million from thousands of people across the United States and other countries.
As events warranted, Tulsa Today published five stories and is credited by the Havana Herald of Gadsden County, Florida as breaking the original news. ASD was headquartered in Gadsden County until the Secret Service raid.
ASD had scheduled a rally and sales effort in Tulsa and, shortly before that event; a reader called to say he suspected ASD was a Ponzi scheme and demanded we warn people. This writer as publisher agreed and we began. Then our email exploded with angry denials of any impropriety by ASD employees and friends.
My favorite critic, Ronald, damned personally in the name of God saying in the last lines of a long email, “What is at stake here is your Eternal Soul. This is my concern. The Holy Spirit of God has sent me to tell you, ‘even if you are right . . . you are still wrong.’ Repent and Come Home, I Love You . . . My Prodigal Son!”
At the suggestion of a reporter from the Oklahoman, I framed that email and hung it on the Tulsa Today office wall.
Another telephoned the office later in the series saying in an angry tone, “You cost me $4,000.” Then he paused adding in a softer voice, “but you saved me $15,000 and having to apologize to my family for the rest of my life. Thanks.”
Bowdoin’s plea was announced by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and James Glendinning, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Orlando Field Office of the U.S. Secret Service.
Bowdoin, 77, of Quincy, Fla., entered the plea before the Honorable Rosemary M. Collyer in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. No sentencing date was set. Under terms of the plea agreement, which were approved by the Court, Bowdoin faces a maximum sentence of 78 months in prison and fines of up to $175,000. He remains free pending a hearing on June 12, 2012 to determine if he should be incarcerated pending his sentencing.
According to a statement of offense, signed by the government as well as the defendant, Bowdoin ran a Ponzi scheme disguised as an online advertising company. AdSurf Daily, Inc., or ASD, drew in large numbers of investors by promising huge returns on their investment.
Bowdoin admitted that he operated ASD from September 2006 until August 2008, when agents from the Secret Service and the St. Cloud, Fla. IRS-Secret Service Task Force seized ASD’s assets and bank accounts pursuant to a court order.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia subsequently obtained civil forfeiture of $80 million in proceeds of Bowdoin’s schemes, including numerous bank accounts, real property, luxury vehicles, and watercraft. The Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, the U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia established a program to return the fraudulently obtained money to victims. Approximately $55 million in forfeited assets has been returned to 8,400 victims.
These proceeds are now being returned to victims through an administrative process called “remission,” which was overseen by the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and the Secret Service.
Havana Herald Reporter Byron Spires notes that while Bowdoin presented ASD as an online advertising company; in reality he was running an investment Ponzi scheme in which he 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.”
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 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.
addition to Tulsa Today, Lynn Edgington authored a very detailed book
of computer crime and the Internet. “Robbing You With A Keyboard Instead Of A Gun”
covers ASD in part in Chapter 11 as a “Pay-to-Click/Auto-Surf Program.” It is a very detailed analysis of computer
fraud schemes online.
Edgington’s book for all law enforcement assigned to both cyber-crime and general
fraud. It shows how fraud works in
detail and how it can be sold by a small group of insiders to an unsuspecting
public and it provides a set of standards by which to judge claims of massive
rewards for minimum effort.
Lincoln once said, “It’s the old story: You work – I’ll eat” which on an
individual scale is theft and, in mass, plunder upon the people.
justice finds Andy Bowdoin.
In order of publishing, from first to last, here are the Tulsa Today stories covering ASD.