FEDS: Having Pocketed $11 Million In 2011, Burks Plowed Forward With Zeek, Despite Knowledge Of AdSurfDaily Ponzi Case
EDITOR’S NOTE: Prior to the Aug. 17, 2012 fall of Zeek Rewards, the PP Blog reported on a number of similarities between Zeek and AdSurfDaily. (See June 10, 2012, editorial, “A Friday Evening In MLM Radio La-La Land.” Also see Aug. 12, 2012, editorial, “Karl Wallenda Wouldn’t Do Zeek.”)
With the July 5 trial date for alleged Zeek Rewards’ operator Paul Burks fast approaching, federal prosecutors making a case for willful blindness now say Burks and co-conspirator Dawn Wright-Olivares plowed forward even though they were “very aware” of the Ponzi-scheme case against AdSurfDaily and operator Andy Bowdoin.
In fact, the office of U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said in June 24 filings, the subject of ASD had come up at Zeek at least by March 2011, only a few months after Bowdoin had been indicted in November 2010.
The triggering event for an email discussion between Burks and Wright-Olivares had been an affiliate’s promotion for Zeek that in part read, “[i]f you were in ASD or AVG then you will know how good this is,” prosecutors said.
“AVG” is short for AdViewGlobal, a 1-percent-a-day scam Bowdoin and others launched just two months after the U.S. Secret Service, using forfeiture law, seized tens of millions of dollars from Bowdoin for his operation of ASD in August 2008. A federal judge revoked Bowdoin’s bail in the ASD case after she found out about AVG.
Wright-Olivares, in February 2014, pleaded guilty to criminal charges for her role in Zeek. She and stepson Daniel Olivares, who also pleaded guilty, are expected to testify against Burks.
The Zeek affiliate’s March 2011 promo using the names of both ASD and AVG prompted Wright-Olivares to advise the affiliate to be “careful with [her] subject line,” prosecutors said. A lecture using all-caps allegedly ensued.
“We cannot have ZeekRewards compared to ASD or AVG EVER for ANY REASON,” Wright-Olivares allegedly wrote to the affiliate. “They were both shut down. We are very very different from both companies.”
It was unclear from the filing whether the Zeek affiliate also had belonged to ASD and AVG. Zeek receiver Kenneth D. Bell has raised the issue of some MLMers moving from one fraud scheme to another, actions that lead to a sort of permanent fog of preposterous disingenuousness and willful blindness in the HYIP sphere.
After ASD had become a topic of discussion inside Zeek in March 2011, the subject came up again in June of that year, prosecutors alleged.
“Similarly, on June 28, 2011, over [S]kype, Wright-Olivares told Burks that changes needed to be made to the program to make it sustainable,” prosecutors alleged. “Burks retorted: ‘I’m the one with my neck in the noose…not you…If the swat team shows up it’s MY ass in the can…’ Wright-Olivares responded, ‘[i]’ll be there too… they will seize it all and we are liable ask the ASD people.'”
By June 2011, it was public knowledge that ASD had gathered at least $110 million. Burks’ prosecutors now are suggesting that, despite the lessons of the ASD case, Burks and Wright-Olivares did not abandon Zeek because the money was simply too good.
“In 2011 alone, Burks received approximately $11 million in income from ZeekRewards out of total revenue of approximately $37 million,” prosecutors alleged in their June 24 brief. They earlier pegged the total haul of Wright-Olivares at about $7.2 million.
Burks is facing charges of with mail- and wire-fraud conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax-fraud conspiracy. Some MLMers have insisted for years that the issuance of tax forms by a “program” demonstrates no fraud is under way.
With Zeek, prosecutors have laid bare that notion.
From prosecutors’ assertions (italics added):
In total, Defendant Burks, and others, reported to the IRS supposed income by the victim-investors of over $96 million for the year 2011 on the 1099s issued, while ZeekRewards actually paid out less than approximately $13 million in cash to victim-investors during that year. As a result, individual victim-investors filed false tax returns with the IRS reporting phantom income that they never actually received, and Burks, and others were able to use the false tax notices to perpetuate the Ponzi scheme by making the phantom money seem like it actually existed.
NOTE: Our thanks to the ASD Updates Blog.