SPECIAL REPORT: The Largely Unknown Bowdoin ‘Surf’

Andy Bowdoin

Andy Bowdoin

“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil.”From 1 Timothy 6:9-10

He was hailed a Christian “genius,” and AdSurfDaily President Andy Bowdoin often invoked God during his sales pitches.

“We need to have an attitude of gratitude with God,” Bowdoin told an ASD gathering in Las Vegas last year. “And I always say, ‘Thank you, God, for developing me into a money magnet.’ And I see myself as a money magnet in attracting money and, I say, attracting large sums of money.”

Many of his admirers portrayed him as the forward-thinking inventor of a miraculous business system for “good Christian people.” To prosecutors who had seen it all before, however, he was neither a genius nor an inventor.

Bowdoin, they said, was nothing more than a felonious imitator who had modeled his business on at least one multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that had traded on dreams before regulators reduced it to ruins.

AdSurfDaily almost wasn’t called AdSurfDaily. “Initially,” prosecutors said, “Mr. Bowdoin had intended to operate” under a different name.

It is little known, but on Aug. 24, 2006,  Andy Bowdoin registered that name with the state of Florida. It used two of the three words that comprised the title of the infamous 12DailyPro autosurf Ponzi scheme — and, as it turned out, one of two words that comprised the title of the infamous PhoenixSurf autosurf Ponzi scheme.

The highly imitative name Bowdoin selected for his venture was “DailyProSurf,” according to records in Florida.

In a widely publicized case, 12DailyPro had been accused just six months earlier by the Securities and Exchange Commission of operating a $50 million Ponzi scheme from Charlotte, N.C. The allegations against 12DailyPro were brought on Feb. 20, 2006.

Two days later — on Feb. 22, 2006 — PhoenixSurf launched from the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Ga. The surf collected more than $41.9 million before flaming out three months later, in May 2006. In 2007, it became the subject of yet another SEC Ponzi scheme investigation.

During its brief run, PhoenixSurf averaged nearly $14 million a month in revenue. Like 12DailyPro, PhoenixSurf purported to be an “advertising” service and was charged with the sale of unregistered securities as investment contracts.

SEC Introduces World To The Autosurf Ponzi . . .

The SEC’s prosecution of 12DailyPro in 2006 made headlines. The context of the case was alarming,  and the numbers were jaw-dropping. A woman operating out of an apartment in North Carolina had managed to disguise a securities business as an advertising service, collecting more than $50 million on the Internet in only eight months’ time while allegedly siphoning $1.9 million into her own bank account and paying old customers with money received from new members.

The SEC announced the 12DailyPro prosecution on Feb. 27, 2006, issuing a news release on the SEC website and providing a copy of the complaint. Perhaps like no Internet fraud case before it, the 12DailyPro case demonstrated it was possible for hucksters to deploy technology to collect staggering sums quickly and convert all or part of the proceeds to their own use.

12DailyPro and PhoenixSurf took in a combined amount of at least $91.9 million in only months of operation, prosecutors said. Bowdoin’s ASD, at its peak, collected tens of millions of dollars weekly. Federal agents conducted a raid in August 2008 and found at least $93.5 million. After a slow start, ASD had surpassed both 12DailyPro and PhoenixSurf as a cash machine.

What new ASD members by the thousands didn’t know, prosecutors said, was that they were paying for abuses Bowdoin had built into the system and for liabilities he had accrued when at least one previous iteration of the surf had gone bust.

To explain slow or absent ASD payouts during the many dark days before ASD took off, Bowdoin at one point told some members that $1 million had been stolen from ASD by “Russian” hackers, but he never filed a police report, prosecutors said.

Naturally the claim led to questions about whether hackers actually had stolen the money — or whether it had been stolen by somebody else.

Bowdoin deliberately set up his program so ASD insiders effectively could steal from the company and pass along the cost of the thefts to the latest crop of recruits, prosecutors said in December.

DailyProSurf Domain Appears Online During Height Of 12DailyPro Craze, Then Vanishes Mysteriously

It is unclear if Bowdoin ever registered a website in the name of DailyProSurf, operated a forerunner to ASD under that name or benefited from from an operation that used the DailyProSurf name.

What is clear is that someone registered .com and .net sites in the DailyProSurf name — and that DailyProSurf references continue to appear alongside references to 12DailyPro in search results even to this day. It also is clear that DailyProSurf graphics were ordered and delivered by a company that catered to surf sites — including autosurf script sales — and autosurf promoters pushed traffic to the sites in early 2006, during the height of the 12DailyPro craze and while PhoenixSurf was just getting off the ground.

The presence of DailySurfPro raises an intriguing question: Did ASD have a predecessor site?

The DailyProSurf domain name was operational — and affiliates were pushing the site — at least eights months before Bowdoin registered the DailyProSurf name with the Florida Department of State.

Bowdoin registered the DailyProSurf name in Florida in August 2006. But references to DailyProSurf.com from as early as January 2006 appear online. References later in 2006 include a report about members not getting paid and a theory the surf was a “scam” that had ceased operations and gone offline. One web service captured a screen shot of a “suspension” notice from the hosting company for DailyProSurf.com. Both the .com and .net domain names now appear to be available for repurchase.

It also is known that both DailyProSurf and ASD used the same format to create affiliate links — the domain name, followed by a slash and then followed by code in this format: ?ref=[affiliate ID number]

In early 2006, the affiliate ID numbers for DailyProSurf were low numbers such as 30 and 75, which means the program was just getting started, likely using the same script that powered other autosurf sites. (Type dailyprosurf.com/?ref= into Google to see some of the search results. You’ll also see 12DailyPro affiliate links using the same format in the search results.)

Within a month of Bowdoin’s October 2006 launch of AdSurfDaily –  just two months after Bowdoin had registered the DailyProSurf name in Florida — members complained about not getting paid by ASD. ASD provided a number of excuses, according to members, telling participants that script problems were at fault.

By February 2007, ASD was coming apart at the seams. Bowdoin announced the formation of a new corporation that would be known as “AdSalesDaily” — as opposed to “AdSurfDaily” — and he offered “stock” in the company to buyers willing to pay the minimum price of $10,000, according to participants.

A similar pitch had almost landed Bowdoin in prison in Alabama in the 1990s; investigators attributed 89 separate instances of fraud to Bowdoin, including an assertion that he had used money from new investors to pay off older ones, the central element of a Ponzi scheme.

Feeling the heat from early ASD members in February and March 2007, Bowdoin sought to keep them at bay. Bowdoin ventured from Florida to Atlanta to speak with unnamed “leaders” and work on solutions, he told members.

The solution he ultimately arrived at, prosecutors said, was to relaunch the surf under the name of ASD Cash Generator, port old accounts to the new surf — and not tell new members that they were paying for liabilities racked up by the original ASD.

The Beginning Of The End

During the months of February and March 2007 — a full year before ASD began to rake in the kind of money 12DailyPro and PhoenixSurf had raked in — Bowdoin made a catastrophic mistake that ultimately would come back to haunt him and lead to ASD’s undoing: He started donating money to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), even as ASD members were complaining about not getting paid.

In 2008, a false story pushed by ASD members that Bowdoin had received a special award from the White House for a lifetime of business achievement began to circulate online, prosecutors said. What members pushing the story did not know — because Bowdoin did not tell them — was that the award was for NRCC campaign contributions, not business achievement, and that there was a paper trail to prove it.

It is a virtual certainty that Bowdoin’s NRCC contributions came from the proceeds of a Ponzi scheme.

Because of his political donations and business filings, Bowdoin’s name and address appeared in both federal and state databases accessible to any person with an Internet connection.

The paper trail led to the campaign donations — and it also led to what prosecutors called a fraudulent address: 13 S. Calhoun St., Quincy, Fla. It was the address Bowdoin had used for AdSurfDaily, AdSalesDaily and DailyProSurf in public filings. Crucially, however, it was not the actual address of the former flower shop owned by Bowdoin’s wife that went on to become Bowdoin’s headquarters for various businesses, including ASD.

Older filings in the Florida Department of State database listed the address of the building as 11 S. Calhoun, but newer filings in the Florida database and the Federal Election Commission database listed the address as 13 S. Calhoun.

ASD also used the 13 S. Calhoun address on its website.

“[T]he address listed on ASD’s webpage is not a valid mailing address,” prosecutors said. “The address 13 S. Calhoun Street, Quincy, Florida does not exist. A building located at 11 S. Calhoun Street is a now defunct flower shop that used to be run by Bowdoin’s wife. It appears that Bowdoin or one of his associates merely posted the number 13 on another door attached to the same building.

“ASD has been receiving mail there.” (Emphasis added).

Bowdoin, a man who registered a hybrid surf that borrowed from the names of two infamous Ponzi schemes that had raked in nearly $100 million practically overnight, found himself in a trap of his own making because of the allegations he had fabricated a mailing address.

ASD told members it was impossible to operate because the government seized its money and its computers, but prosecutors returned the computers at ASD’s request and did not object to a hearing the company requested to have some of its money unfrozen. ASD lost the hearing because it could not demonstrate it was operating legally. Its clear route out of the Ponzi thicket was to produce an audited balance sheet that demonstrated solvency. ASD did not do so.

Why did ASD not restart after its computers were returned if it truly was an “advertising” business? One of the reasons is that it knew its audience would flee unless it was getting paid to surf, prosecutors said.

But there could be another reason that is equally revealing.

Because Bowdoin allegedly had used a bogus address to set up ASD, had publicized the address on the ASD website and had received mail at the address, any further business activity from the former flower shop involving mail could be construed as additional evidence of mail fraud.

If prosecutors are correct that 13 S. Calhoun was a bogus address, count after count of mail fraud could have piled up had Bowdoin reopened ASD and continued to use the address. Changing the address could have been construed as an acknowledgment that mail fraud had occurred earlier.

Although ASD owned another building in Quincy outright after having paid $800,000 cash for it, prosecutors said the building had been acquired with the proceeds of a crime. Moving wasn’t a good option because it could not undo the damage that had been done by using the 13 S. Calhoun mailing address.

Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that Bowdoin, using the name “AdSalesDaily” and the address of 13. S. Calhoun, made the first of his political donations on Feb. 27, 2007, even as ASD members were clamoring for their cash. His first donation was for $250. He matched it in March 2007, with another $250 donation. In 2008, using the name “AdSurfDaily” and the address of 13 S. Calhoun, Bowdoin donated $5,000 to the NRCC.

Missing Dreams Now, ‘See Those Checks’ Then

As was the case with 12DailyPro, many ASD dreams have gone missing.

Although the DailyProSurf domain name also went missing, the public filing Bowdoin made in Florida using the 13 S. Calhoun address did not. And neither did records pertaining to his campaign donations in the names of “AdSalesDaily” and “AdSurfDaily,” both of which also used the 13 S. Calhoun address.

Andy Bowdoin, indeed, demonstrated a remarkable capacity to attract money.

“Thank you, God, for destining me to great wealth,” he exhorted the Las Vegas crowd to internalize and recite during the day.

And he exhorted members to picture themselves wealthy.

“See a big check coming in from AdSurfDaily,” he urged. “I signed a check the other day, about $22,000. See those checks like that coming for you constantly, just flowing to you.”

About the Author

8 Responses to “SPECIAL REPORT: The Largely Unknown Bowdoin ‘Surf’”

  1. The site seems to have been active from Jan to Feb 2006.

    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.DailyProSurf.com

    Anyone wanting to compare the source code or css style sheets of DPS and Andy’s sites, if any, at that time might find some interesting parallels.

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  2. (Type dailyprosurf.com/?ref= into Google to see some of the search results. You’ll also see 12DailyPro affiliate links using the same format in the search results.)

    This is quite common. When you visit a website, it has no idea who you are or where you came from….unless you pass along a cookie stored on your system, have been issued a session_id or append the URL. In the example above, dailyprosurf.com is the URL. The “?” signals the browser/server that this is end of the URL. In the case above you are setting a the “ref” variable on the server to whatever is behind the = sign. There’s a script on the server checking to see if the “ref” variable” has been set and if it has, it generally will do a database lookup to see who the ref number corresponds to. If 12345 is the ref variable, you will likely see “Joe Blow” is your sponsor”.

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  3. Patrick,

    While it may have been unknown to many, I’m betting that due to his mind bogglingly superior investigative skills, Bob Guenther knew about this surf even before Andy knew about it.

    I am not Don

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  4. Yes, DB is quite right, the format of the URL is quite common. In fact it doesn’t take much intelligence to work out which ponzi HYIPs are using the GoldCoders script – all the ref URLs, all the FAQ URLs etc are all the same format. Not much intelligence, but this seems to elude some of the ponzi promoters, ponzi friendly web hosts and ponzi friendly payment processors.

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