ROLLER-COASTER: AVG Forum Closes, Reopens, Closes

UPDATED 2:03 A.M. EDT (July 4, U.S.A.) In the past few days, the AdViewGlobal (AVG) forum has closed, reopened, and closed again. The actions occurred in the wake of complaints from members who have been pleading with the company to provide understandable explanations and to stop blaming participants for AVG’s seeming inability to explain itself.

In a bizarre communication, AVG advised members that the initial forum closure had occurred because posts by some members were contributing to the confusion of other members. Nearly 50 posts were deleted, members said.

The forum later reopened briefly, with a disclaimer that suggested the company would ban members who misbehaved and contact their Internet Service Providers to report them. The act led to questions about whether AVG was trying to chill legitimate criticism and manage the operation by instilling fear within the rank-and-file, which never has been provided an audited financial statement by the firm and yet was told the company was healthy even as it was suspending payouts. The forum closed again a short time later, amid an announcement that Donna Rougeau, who defined herself as an AVG subcontractor and had emerged as the face of the company, had left the beleaguered surf firm.

Previously, AVG had threatened media outlets with copyright-infringement lawsuits if they published information that originated inside the confines of the AVG “private association.” By implication, the threat also extended to members who shared information outside association walls, putting members in the strange position of not being able to share news — good or bad — unless they were willing to risk getting sued.

Some members viewed the threats as a strong-arm tactic. AVG’s name recently appeared in a racketeering lawsuit filed against AdSurfDaily President Andy Bowdoin, although the company has not been named a defendant in the case.

AVG, which earlier had announced a new payout plan and then withdrew it when members said it left more questions unanswered than answered, advised members that it would re-release the plan in bite-sized chunks over an unspecified time period.

Members immediately complained that the company had implied they were too stupid to understand a plan that was published all at one time, suggesting that the company’s real problem was that it had sent one mixed message after another.

Mixing Politics And Business

AVG purports to be a professional advertising and communications firm that, although based in Uruguay, derives its authority from the U.S. Constitution and the Florida Constitution. The AVG “Articles of Association” reads like a political document, not a business document.  AVG, for instance, appoints an association “Protector.”

Among other things, AVG declares, “We proclaim the freedom to choose and perform for ourselves the types of advertising and marketing enterprises.” (Sic.)

One interpretation of the document is that AVG has declared its own American subcountry and will pick and choose the laws it intends to follow.

Such incongruities are part and parcel to AVG’s corner of the autosurfing universe. The firm has close ties to AdSurfDaily, whose own universe is dominated by equally inexplicable behavior.

At least one member of ASD declared himself a “sovereign” in court documents not related to the ASD case, purporting that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity and answered only to Jesus Christ.

The ASD member, Curtis Richmond, has a history that includes being charged and convicted of contempt of court for threatening federal judges. Richmond also has been ordered to pay damages to victims in a RICO case in which several individuals declared themselves members of a sovereign “Indian” tribe and filed claims for astronomical damages against public officials in the performance of their duties.

Members of the tribe placed financial judgments — one in excess of $200 million — against the public officials. The officials successfully sued the tribe members under racketeering and mail-fraud statutes, and a federal judge ruled that the tribe was a “complete sham.”

When Richmond began to file pro se pleadings in the ASD case, an AVG forum operated by some of the Mods and members of the Pro-AdSurfDaily Surf’s Up forum declared him a “hero.” Federal prosecutors, however, argued that Richmond’s pleadings — and others that streamed in using a Richmond litigation blueprint — were delaying refunds for victims of Andy Bowdoin and ASD.

Dissing The Doubters

AVG’s loyalists long have compounded the company’s problems by dissing doubters on AVG’s forum and on a now-closed AVG forum once operated by some of the Mods and members of the ProAdSurfDaily Surf’s Up forum, casting doubters as simpletons, “plants” or turncoats. Members did not take kindly to scoldings from representatives of a company that was holding onto their money and not revealing the names of its “Management Team.”

AVG now concedes it is owned by George and Judy Harris. The surf firm still has not identified managers. AVG purportedly has 30 founding members, and it is widely believed that most — if not all — of the founders came from AdSurfDaily, which is in trouble for wire fraud, money-laundering, selling unregistered securities and operating a Ponzi scheme.

It is believed — though it has not been confirmed in public records — that the U.S. government has seized several bank accounts of AVG members who also belonged to ASD.

At the same time, other AVG loyalists have taken the PR fight to Blogs and websites that raise questions about AVG, but only have managed to add to the company’s mounting PR problems.

While AVG was announcing an apparent shift in business models as it apparently was holding onto vast sums of members’ cash collected under an earlier business model, one AVG advocate said a person who questioned the firm could benefit from “penis enlargement.”

We used “apparently” above because AVG publishes no audited financials and expects members to accept its assertions as an article of faith. It’s the same thing that got ASD President Andy Bowdoin in trouble.

Two days ago — in what we believe was an accidental forwarding by an AVG supporter who put our email address in a database after contacting us through our Contact form — this Blog was copied with an email message from an AVG member who reported to another member that he had posted here and called us “chickenshit.”

The other member responded by calling us a “spineless coward” — and happens to be a promoter who once pitched Noobing, a surf program that had positioned itself as an excellent choice for people with hearing impairments.

AVG’s message is impossibly tangled, and the resulting confusion is not exclusively about how the company is addressing Ponzi concerns. The core incongruity is that the company purports to be a professional advertising and communications firm, but butchers one message after another, re-plumbs the message after being criticized by members — and then butchers the re-plumbed message.

AVG’s inability to settle on a message and explain its business model without ambiguity — as well as its awkward bids to maintain secrecy and suppress criticism — have angered some members and managed to keep the company in the news for weeks. Some of the messages simply cannot be reconciled because of the firm’s obvious ties to ASD.

Why AVG’s Ties To ASD Matter

AVG previously listed George and Judy Harris on the website as “Trustees” of the AVG offshore “private association,” but now says the Harrises own the company.

George Harris is the stepson of AdSurfDaily President Andy Bowdoin. George Harris is the son of Bowdoin’s wife, Edna Faye Bowdoin. Judy Harris is the wife of George Harris. George and Judy Harris, Andy Bowdoin and Edna Faye Bowdoin  are named in a federal forfeiture complaint filed in December as people who organized illegal conduct and benefited from it.

Andy Bowdoin and Edna Faye Bowdoin also are named in a lawsuit in Florida as the parties responsible for operating a massive pyramid scheme that fleeced investors, including senior citizens. Andy Bowdoin also is named a defendant in a racketeering lawsuit filed by ASD members who seek class-action certification.

Andy Bowdoin has not responded to the RICO complaint, which was filed in January. Earlier this week, the plaintiffs in the RICO case described AVG in court filings as a new iteration of ASD and autosurf schemes, listing employees and staff ASD and AVG had in common, including George Harris.

Andy Bowdoin identified George Harris last year as head of ASD’s “real estate division” in front of an audience of hundreds of people.

Federal prosecutors say Andy Bowdoin signed a proffer letter in the forfeiture case and acknowledged ASD was operating illegally when the U.S. Secret Service seized tens of millions of dollars from the company last year.

Bowdoin initially contested the forfeiture. In November, a federal judge issued a devastating ruling, saying ASD had not demonstrated it was a legal business and not a Ponzi scheme at an evidentiary hearing in the early fall.

ASD had specifically requested the hearing. The judge granted its petition to conduct the hearing in the interests of justice — of making absolutely certain that the ASD side of the Ponzi story would be told in court and considered on the merits — and federal prosecutors did not object.

About a month after the judge’s ruling, prosecutors filed a second forfeiture complaint against assets tied to ASD. This complaint named George and Judy Harris as beneficiaries of ASD’s illegal conduct, alleging that George Harris and Edna Faye Bowdoin had opened a bank account and funded it with illegal proceeds from ASD, and that George Harris later used more than $157,000 of the opening deposit to pay off the mortgage on the Tallahassee home he shares with Judy Harris.

Illegal proceeds from ASD also were used by George and Judy Harris to purchase an automobile, prosecutors said. The complaint also alleged that Andy Bowdoin had a history of collecting money through surfing schemes and that large sums of the money later would disappear.

To explain ASD’s inability to pay, Bowdoin said that Russian “hackers” had stolen $1 million from ASD and that an unspecified amount of other money also had gone missing because of script problems, prosecutors said.

But Bowdoin never reported the thefts because he did not want the scrutiny, prosecutors said. They added that he paid an employee of ASD to surf for Bowdoin’s son, so the son could benefit from ASD “rebates” while performing no actual work.

Prosecutors alleged that Bowdoin started a new iteration of ASD, moving members’ holdings from one venture to the next, while paying off his obligations to his initial investors with money that came from new participants: a textbook Ponzi scheme.

The same types of concerns now are being raised about AVG.

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20 Responses to “ROLLER-COASTER: AVG Forum Closes, Reopens, Closes”

  1. It is going to be very interesting to see just what is posted when the site does come back up. Wonder what the faithful would say if it says the same thing that ASD had to post when their site came back up? But since it is this legal, the future of online advertising, and on its way to a Fortune 500 company; then there is nothing to worry about. But on the other hand……..

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  2. Without their forum and with no Company call on Thursday, it is not difficult to imagine the confusion and worry that the non-insider members of AVGA must be going through.

    Whilst some of them went into AVGA knowing that they were going into an ASD knock on operation that shared its same basis of illegality, there were still a few who went in blindly, after being assured by promoters that this would be a way to get their lost ASD funds restored.

    The departure of Donna Rougeau and Syndicate Digital comes as less of a surprise than the fact that they became involved with AVGA in the first place. As a Canadian Operation they were certainly free from US legislative restrictions, however no legislation can protect a business from loss of reputation. IThe voluntary and highly publicized involvement of Syndicate Digital with a dubious organisation like AVGA, which has been the subject of criticism all over the internet will have been far more damaging to them, than any legal issues. It cant have done Donna Rougeaus’s personal professional reputation much good either.

    Greed is a terrible thing.

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  3. Great article, Patrick.

    I think the on-going saga of ASD followed by AVG demonstrates the weakness of the arrest in rem forfeiture process, especially if used in lieu of proceeding criminally against perpetrators. With so many gullible people ready, willing, and – shockingly enough – still ABLE to send wads of cash to the next group of scammers, the DOJ isn’t stopping those who are stealing the funds at all. They’ve just moved along and started the next scam, and those who can no longer be considered “victims” have gone right along with them.

    Come to think of it, that plan has its own symmetry and maybe should be left alone. It doesn’t cost the US taxpayers anything, and pretty soon those “advertisers” are going to be left flat broke and homeless, and there won’t be anyone to buy “ad packs” or “page impressions.” Whether they implode from inside forces or explode from external forces, dead and gone is dead and gone. The pitiful part is that you can read in the posts that ASD and AVG seems to be such an emotional outlet for many of them. They belong to an Association and they have hundreds of “friends.” Except they don’t, of course. That’s what’s so pitiful.

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  4. I wonder if McIntyre, Simmons, Pont, and all those other clowns are staying inside today and boycotting the 4th of July………..after all today celebrates our country and its “evil” government that initiated the attack of “satan” on ASD……..

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  5. Marci, I agree, the civil forfeiture laws need reform. It is too easy for law enforcement to go after the money and leave the crook to perpetrate another crime…it fosters the victimization of citizens. The ones who are getting away with it are the scammers who start them up and the big players who know how to use the scam for their own gain. http://www.fear.org has some good info on CF laws.

    Sicilian, even if those serial scammers are out celebrating America’s Independence Day, they are missing a fundamental principle on which our freedom is based. In the words of one of our founding fathers, John Adams, “Our government was made for a moral and religious people, it is wholly inadequate for the governing of any other.” THose people care not a wit about morality or they would not be engaged in such corrupt activities.

    The USA, for all it’s mistakes, is the worlds greatest nation because of our law. Our Constitution which declares our rights come from our creator and not the king. When the human spirit is free to pursue it’s own self interest the world benefits, but only when one’s behavior is guided by personal responsibility and morality…a concept I am thinking is entirley lacking in more than a few of the members or ASD and AVGA.

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  6. Marci,

    The flip side is the arrest in rem stops the Ponzi dead in its tracks, faster than a criminal investigation would. Further, busting Andy wouldn’ty have immediately stopped ASD. One could hope for a faster criminal prosecution, but the evidence isn’t going away (and if anything, keeps building with more coconspirators.) No question people were lied to in ASD, but OTOH the victims did willingly enter into something that even for the most optimistic, still had to seem to be too good to be true. I am far from defending Andy, but the victims’ own actions did play a contributing role (including many victims who recruited a few folks — unfortunately often friends and family — what should THEIR staus be? Victim or accomplice?) In any case, that contributory role can complicate the criminal proceeding. One can make a case, even if weak, that the victims should have known better. It is sort of like a car accident — even the driver at fault is rarely deemed 100% at fault (because the other driver may have contributed simply by “being there,” which happened to my spouse last week.)

    I LOVED your comment on the friends….too many of the so-called “friends” want to steal their friends’ money. Certainly the ringleaders and head cheerleaders want to do that, and they knew all along it was a scam. Friends indeed…..

    Marci: Great article, Patrick. I think the on-going saga of ASD followed by AVG demonstrates the weakness of the arrest in rem forfeiture process, especially if used in lieu of proceeding criminally against perpetrators. With so many gullible people ready, willing, and – shockingly enough – still ABLE to send wads of cash to the next group of scammers, the DOJ isn’t stopping those who are stealing the funds at all. They’ve just moved along and started the next scam, and those who can no longer be considered “victims” have gone right along with them. Come to think of it, that plan has its own symmetry and maybe should be left alone. It doesn’t cost the US taxpayers anything, and pretty soon those “advertisers” are going to be left flat broke and homeless, and there won’t be anyone to buy “ad packs” or “page impressions.” Whether they implode from inside forces or explode from external forces, dead and gone is dead and gone. The pitiful part is that you can read in the posts that ASD and AVG seems to be such an emotional outlet for many of them. They belong to an Association and they have hundreds of “friends.” Except they don’t, of course. That’s what’s so pitiful.

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  7. While the Wheels of Justice turn slowly, they do turn. As to why Judge Collyer has not ruled on all the pro se motions is a puzzler to me too. Until all these motions before her are finalized with a ruling, nothing else can go forward with the ASD case.

    Do I believe that criminal charges are coming? You bet. What to me is going to be the most telling is who all are charged and what charges are filed against them.

    We only know of Andy’s Proffer Letter. There may be more. Others could be talking to protect themselves and receive a plea bargain. There are so many unknowns, but one day they will be known.

    With the immmediate startup of AVG, it may have also complicated the charges being prepared for the “major hitters of ASD” that were also the “major hitters of AVG.” Actually it is better in a lot of ways if AVG just implodes on itself rather than the government coming in and shutting it down. Kind of hard to start another new one and have people flocking to it, when it has been demonstrated they cannot sustain themselves; and especially when there is no “evil government” to blame for its demise.

    I still think George and Judy Harris, and all the others who are “owners,” even if silent ones, thought AVG would take off even bigger than ASD are stunned it didn’t. Partly because of the undying support Andy initially received when ASD was shut down. Then it was all the “evil governments” fault, and the ASD members were terrorists mantra. They have been stunned that the membership didn’t follow them to AVG in the volume they believed they would. You also have to understand that AVG has not had rally’s where millions of dollars were being thrown at them by thousands of cheering and adoring people. That’s what did in ASD so quickly. Well, it was part of what did in ASD.

    The longer they are down, the more serious this situation truly is, and I am 50-50 they will come back. Just because Donna is in Canada, does not mean she is immune to prosecution if the government decides to shut down AVG, or prosecute anyone in AVG even if AVG implodes on itself. If anyone thinks this is being run from Uruguay, then I have a bridge to sell you. Uruguay is just part of the smoke and mirrors that has been AVG.

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  8. The civil seizure allows the guberment to gather evidence for criminal charges against mr bowdong.

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  9. Need a name: The civil seizure allows the guberment to gather evidence for criminal charges against mr bowdong.

    You’re absolutely right,

    Anyone who has watched one of these prosecutions unfold will know that, for a prosecution to succeed, EVERY “i” has to be dotted and every “t” has to be crossed.

    The logistics of successfully mounting a prosecution of this type are enormous.

    A full, and I do mean “FULL” audit of every single transaction, every single shred of evidence must be carried out. Hundreds of thousands of man hours will be expended before a single word is spoken in court. THEN expect the actual court proceedings to take upward of two years.

    And all this with a team of paid defense lawyers and 100,000 angry victim/members watching every single move.

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  10. WHAT A FUCKING MESS !

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  11. David: WHAT A ******* MESS !

    No it’s not,

    stick around for a while, and you’ll see it’s playing out exactly as it should be, exactly as planned,

    The people who set out to scam others’ money have done so, and the people who were set up to lose their money, i.e. the “members” have lost their money.

    As was predicted on this and other forums, AVGA is just another HYIP ponzi “autosurf” game. Nothing more and nothing less.

    There’s no “mess” involved.

    It was a cold and calculating fraud carried out with ruthless precision by the fraudsters.

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  12. littleroundmanIt was a cold and calculating fraud carried out with ruthless precision by the fraudsters.

    As is AVGA

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  13. Well, it has been 4 days since DR resigned and the forum closed down. There has been no contact with the members regarding what the next move is and if/or when things will get going again.

    Wondering how many faithful members continue to surf and are hoping/praying that things will turn itself around at the end of the month? Ha!

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  14. What is curious to me is non of the avga members are not on the Surf’s up forum demanding answers…same moderators, just different forums.

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  15. From the “ARTICLES OF ASSOCIATION OF AV Global Association” comes this:

    ARTICLE VIII

    “Dissolution

    1. The Association will terminate upon the death of the last remaining member or upon unanimous decision of the Trustee(s). All assets and liabilities will then revert to the trustee(s) at the time of dissolution.”

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  16. Pat Dunn: All assets AND LIABILITIES will then revert to the trustee(s) at the time of dissolution”

    Talk about being hoist on their own petard.

    That HAS TO appear on the next edition of “Meet the Worlds’ Dumbest Crooks”

    Ponzi operators accepting the liabilities generated by a fraudulent “autosurf” when, by its’ very nature, every single deposit generates another liability.

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  17. littleroundman: Ponzi operators accepting the liabilities generated by a fraudulent “autosurf” when, by its’ very nature, every single deposit generates another liability.

    Ah, but LRM, “Rebates” are not guaranteed, you’ll recall. George and Judy get to define “liability” any way they want, since all terms of the agreement are subject to revision by AVG at its sole discretion. That’s another clause in the paperwork, the ToS as I recall.

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  18. Just looked it up. From the ToS comes the following:

    “1. Although we will attempt to keep Members informed of any changes in these Terms of Service, we may amend this Agreement at any time without any prior notification by posting the amended terms on our site. We will notify you via the e-mail address you have on file with AVGLOBAL ASSOCIATION of any changes to the terms. AVGLOBAL ASSOCIATION expressly reserves the right to make said changes and same may be posted on the website or otherwise noticed to Members in addition to or in lieu of the hereinabove mentioned e-mails.”

    So, George and Judy can arbitrarily decide to eliminate payouts and be in compliance with the ToS. They’ve recently done that, purportedly for 30-40 days.

    Furthermore, under the ToS, they can declare that no further payouts will ever occur (thereby eliminating that liability) and collapse the operation. If they do that, the association paperwork says the assets revert to them.

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  19. A very close personal friend got me into this. Boy is his face red!!!

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