EDITORIAL: In The End, Surf’s Up Demonstrated That All Its Members Were Expendable And That Its Heart Beat Only For Bowdoin And A Limited Few

Surf's Up wore its heart on its site: Was there complete intelletual detachment -- or was it for the love of money?

Surf's Up wore its heart for ASD on its site: Was there complete intellectual detachment -- or was it for the love of money or for another reason?

On Nov. 27, 2008, just eight days after a federal judge ruled that Florida-based AdSurfDaily had not demonstrated it was a lawful business and not a Ponzi scheme, ASD gave its official endorsement to the Surf’s Up forum, which suddenly went missing last week after shilling for ASD President Andy Bowdoin 24/7 for more than a year.

After the endorsement, Bowdoin, whom federal prosecutors said was at the helm of a $100 million autosurf Ponzi scheme that had moved “several million” dollars offshore, then largely ceased having direct contact with ASD members. His infrequent messages were released through Surf’s Up.

Surf’s Up was famous for enforcing what it described as a “Poof!” penalty that caused countless posts to be deleted if readers shared unflattering opinions of Bowdoin or provided links to external sources of information to help others shape their opinions. On one hand, Surf’s Up railed against Big Brother; on the other, it served as the Thought Police.

In the end, though, Surf’s Up proved to be expendable without notice — apparently even without notice to the members or all of the Mods. There is a chance that some of the Mods had been lying to the other Mods all along, perhaps never revealing that the forum itself would go missing one day.

The “Poof!” penalty, in the end, applied even to Surf’s Up. The whole of it — 1,005 threads that had managed to survive — simply vanished like so many posts from individuals who dared to question Bowdoin or the ASD enterprise. Someone — and it’s unclear if that person was acting as an individual or at the behest of ASD or another entity or person — had the power of maximum “Poof!” and made the decision that the forum had outlived its usefulness.

The root of the word usefulness is “use.” Indeed, the forum’s rank-and-file members were viewed as simpletons and used as pawns in a concerted effort to confuse and cloud the issues. After they were misinformed and used, the entire forum was discarded  — just like the ASD “ad-packs” that Bowdoin was permitted to display after the seizure of tens of millions of dollars from the firm amid Ponzi, money-laundering, wire-fraud and securities allegations.

Bowdoin never displayed the ads. ASD simply put them on ice and shoved them in a corner. It was as though they never existed; it was as though the plan all along was to use as many members as possible for as long as possible — until they became expendable en masse, until they became something that could be poofed like a critical post about Bowdoin on Surf’s Up.

ASD’s endorsement of Surf’s Up always had more than just a whiff of a plan. The “tell” was that  Surf’s Up embraced the endorsement, rather than repudiating it. Why would any person or entity that values intellectual honesty ever accept the endorsement of a man with a felonious history, a man surrounded by felons when he was operating the company, a man surrounded by more than just a few scofflaws, a man consumed by trouble, a man who was the target of an active criminal investigation by the top law-enforcement agencies in the United States?

Andy Bowdoin deserved only the same business loyalty accorded Bernard Madoff, which is to say none. Madoff had no apologists. Bowdoin had them by the hundreds — in the earliest days by the thousands. The disconnect was so stunning it almost defied description.

The clear purpose of some of the Mods and members was to shill voluntarily and unapologetically for a man implicated in a criminal investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, the IRS and the Justice Department. The frequent deletions were just another form of shilling.

Bowdoin also was under investigation by the state of Florida. Just days before Surf’s Up accepted the endorsement, Bowdoin was sued in Florida for racketeering by three ASD members seeking class-action status. The Florida RICO case later was dismissed by the plaintiffs — only to be refiled in the District of Columbia. Bowdoin never responded to the complaint, and yet the shilling continued.

It also is believed that the Securities and Exchange Commission and state-level securities regulators and attorneys general are at least tangentially involved in the ASD probe. Their involvement might be deeper than is commonly believed. It is known, for example, that the SEC has information on at least four ASD members who had previous run-ins with the agency.

To say Bowdoin has trouble no matter which way he looks is to state the obvious. His legal and PR dangers are clear and present. They are obvious to all observers, including his supporters, apologists and the Mods at the Surf’s Up forum.

This, of course, begs the question of why any person would have chosen to champion Bowdoin. To do so was just plain madness, especially given the fact that Bowdoin was arrested in Alabama in the 1990s for fleecing investors and entered guilty pleas to felonies. A business partner, Clarence Busby of Georgia, was implicated by the SEC in a prime-bank scheme in the 1990s.

In the Busby case, the SEC said he fraudulently represented to investors that the investments in three prime-bank schemes were risk-free and that the ventures would pay returns ranging from 750 percent to 10,000 percent.

Yes, three prime-bank schemes. Yes, 10,000 percent.

“In total, Busby raised nearly $1 million from more than 70 investors,” the SEC said. “None of the investors earned the exorbitant returns promised by Busby.”

The answer to the question of why any person would shill for Bowdoin under these exceptionally weighty circumstances might be simple: total intellectual detachment/dishonesty or money or the promise of money to come. After ASD endorsed Surf’s Up, some of the Mods and members peeled off and created a cheerleading site for the AdViewGlobal (AVG) autosurf.

Some ASD members now say Bowdoin was the silent head of AVG, which launched after two forfeiture cases and a racketeering lawsuit were brought against ASD. Public records show that AVG launched after Bowdoin had met with federal prosecutors and members of law enforcement over a period of at least four days in December 2008 and January 2009 to discuss a possible plea deal in an ASD criminal prosecution.

AVG itself listed Bowdoin family members George and Judy Harris as its owners. AVG’s onetime chief executive officer was Gary Talbert, an ASD executive who filed sworn court documents in the ASD case. The two surfs had other employees, promoters and members in common, including the Surf’s Up Mods who peeled off to start the AVG forum.

In June 2009 — after earlier having provided a tortured explanation that bizarrely both confirmed and denied that ASD and AVG were interconnected — AVG ceased paying members. ASD, in at least one previous iteration, had done the same thing, according to members.

Read about AVG’s denial/confirmation: It was one for the ages.

Surf’s Up deleted post after post about the AVG autosurf, thus shielding Bowdoin family members and perhaps Bowdoin himself from criticism. Few people seem to believe there was anything that approached an arm’s length between ASD and AVG. No one has said precisely how much money AVG took in and how much members lost through a second potential entanglement with a Bowdoin enterprise — an entanglement promoted by some of the Surf’s Up Mods.

The operative word is “some.” At least one of the Surf’s Up Mods appears not to have become entangled in AVG, but the fact remains that none of the Mods publicly divorced themselves from the ASD circus. Rarely in life is one witness to such a circus. It is almost impossible to contemplate the circus without cracking a smile, even though the ASD case is an extremely serious matter. Various efforts to defend ASD were just plain bizarre.

An organization known as ASD Members International (ASDMI) was launched with the stated mission of litigating against the government even if it was behaving legally. There were efforts to destroy the careers of civil servants, career prosecutors and political appointees.

Various letter-writing campaigns ensued — all aimed at neutralizing public officials charged with the responsibility to investigate and prosecute ASD. If a person brought up the subject of AVG on Surf’s Up, the post was deleted. If a person raised the prospect of forming a militia and storming Washington with guns, the post stood — unless the entire thread later got deleted because someone had the temerity to take his or her brain out for a walk and opine that maybe, just maybe, Bowdoin was a con man who happened to get caught in a very big way.

Mixed in with claims that people who questioned Bowdoin were “rats,” “maggots” and “cockroaches” were claims that God was on his side. Accompanying these starkly mixed messages were discussions aimed at getting AARP, which advocates for senior citizens, to advocate on behalf of ASD. No one seems to have made the calculation that so many fraud schemes fleece so many senior citizens that there was not a prayer of AARP entering the case  on ASD’s side. In fact, the organization joined in an effort to strengthen Florida’s securities laws after the ASD case was brought.

A federal judge now has signed a final forfeiture order in the ASD case. The order gives the government title to tens of millions of dollars seized from the company. Prosecutors have said all along — in news releases, in court filings and on a Justice Department website — that they intended to implement a restitution program to compensate ASD victims from seized funds.

This apparently mattered little to some of the Surf’s Up Mods and members and brought out what perhaps was the most bizarre thing about the forum: the continued advocacy and promotion of surf programs despite what had happened to ASD, Golden Panda and LaFuente Dinero. Some of the members even had the gumption to assail the government for “slow” ASD refunds when Bowdoin himself had caused the delays.

At the very same time they were excoriating the government, they were promoting new surf sites, including the ASD-connected AVG. Those positions were irreconcilable. Period.

One cannot at once be both a person expecting compensation for Bowdoin’s illegal actions and a promoter of the next scheme with Bowdoin ties — unless one is willing to discard any association with intellectual honesty and simply ignore facts that are inconvenient.

In the end, Surf’s Up poofed itself, demonstrating for the ages that those hundreds of thousands of words in the 1,005 threads that managed to survive before the forum itself went offline meant nothing.

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7 Responses to “EDITORIAL: In The End, Surf’s Up Demonstrated That All Its Members Were Expendable And That Its Heart Beat Only For Bowdoin And A Limited Few”

  1. On one hand, Surf’s Up railed against Big Brother; on the other, it served as the Thought Police.

    One cant help but laughing at this oh-so-accurate description of the ASD Official Forum

    It has always appeared to me that the Surfs Up Forum was used by ASD (Bowdoin and ASD insiders) as were some of the Mods. It may however be that at least one of the Mods WAS an insider and was using their fellow Mods too). The carrot or reward was proably a deal relating to AVG (later AVGA) or some other financial reward, which most of themm took, irrespective of the fact that it could involve them in future criminal proceedings. The carrot would have been a small price to pay for a group of con men and women planning their next fraud.

    I have always had the impression that someone somewhere in the Bowdoin Court was laughing at these guys, who slavishly and unquestioningly followed the party line. Now, when the chips are down for Bowdoin and Co, it is clear that they are expendable.

  2. I could be wrong (as I have at times) but I think that the site went down because of the request for information from the members concerning the videos.
    Let me explain that the support that Andy thought existed because of the Surf’s up forum did not and after the request for all documents that would prove him innocent (in his eyes) did not materialize and many of the so called supporters started telling him to take a hike it became apparent that the forum was no longer useful.

    The above statement is my opinion and does not that of Patrick Pretty or this site.

  3. A number of ex-Surfs Up posters have been posting on the ASD-Biz forum. It seems that the mods of Surfs did a good job – some of the new posters have used the “evil government” ploy. Some still seem to be under the impression that the “evil government” stole “their” money, despite Andy claiming that it was his. I suspect that some of these are “professional” ponzi players and it will not matter what arguments are made to the contrary, they will still engage in these fraudulent schemes.

  4. Tony H:

    I agree a few of them are major promoter’s of scams, but most have been brainwashed into believing it was all the ‘evil’ government’s fault. This was because the mods would not allow any other point of view to be expressed. They did not want people being shown the truth. Not having access to it, makes the story line they bought seem credible. That is why there were so many sending cookies, brownies, well wishes, thank you’s to Andy and Faye. It is also why there were so many who wrote letters, sent Kool-Aid packets, tea bags, and even villified any TV-station that dared to show ASD in a bad light.

    As Patrick has said on many occasions, the lengths these people went to has exceeded all the other “supporters” of a scam combined. We are used to seeing everyone blamed but the perps of the scam; but ASD members took this to a whole new level of cult-hood. As Patrick has said, it is comical in one sense, but terribly sad and dangerous in another.

    Now that these people are on a forum where contrarian views are not deleted, they will have to back up their inane comments unlike on the Surf’s Up forum, they might finally wake-up and realize how badly they were conned by Andy and the mods. Once this happens, I would not want to be in either’s shoes. Maybe that is why Terralynn went missing to avoid having to be confronted in person by some members of the forum. This could really get ugly once the full truth is known. I sincerely hope this is not the case. But if the delusional state I saw in their defence of Andy and ASD is turned around to Andy and the mods, it could be very dangerous for all.

    Well, it is about time for the real part of ASD to take center stage now the civil proceedings are over. It sure is going to be interesting to see who all gets a personal invitation from the Feds. This could be a real stimulus package for criminal attorney’s.

  5. Frighteningly, as of yesterday evening, one highly-active scam promotion site that I watch was still “featuring” ASD Cash Generator as a major program for people to join.

    Let me check it again.

    Yup, it’s still there today, too.

  6. […] including some of the moderators of the now-defunct Pro-ASD Surf’s Up forum. Surf’s Up suddenly went missing in the earliest days of […]

  7. […] the ASD seizure, Hoy became a moderator at the pro-ASD “Surf’s Up” forum, which mysteriously vanished in January 2010 after cheerleading nonstop for ASD President Andy Bowdoin for more than a […]