The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to seize two houses and US$53 million from the owner of an Internet-based business allegedly engaged in a "massive" Ponzi scheme, the agency said.
The DOJ on Tuesday filed a civil forfeiture complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to keep property owned by Thomas Bowdion Jr., owner of AdSurfDaily, which operates AdSurfDaily.com, ASDcashgenerator.com, Lafuentedinero.com and Goldenpandaadbuilder.com.
The complaint, filed by U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor, says that the property and money, seized by the U.S. Secret Service on Friday, are forfeitable to the U.S. government. AdSurfDaily, operating out of a flower shop in Quincy, Florida, allegedly operated an online advertising campaign that paid investors to have Web pages delivered to their browsers.
The AdSurfDaily business model purportedly generated advertising revenue by automatically rotating advertised Web sites into its investors' Internet browsers. The company agreed to pay a return of 125 percent to 150 percent on each dollar invested, as long as each investor agreed to view a couple of Web sites for a couple of minutes each day.
The DOJ called the program a so-called Ponzi scheme, in which money from new investors is used to pay off earlier investors until the whole scheme collapses.
AdSurfDaily did not operate as a seller of advertising services and there was no legitimate product being sold to support the profits the company promised to pay to its investors. AdSurfDaily was creating no significant new wealth by selling advertising to purchasers outside of its investor-members, and the only profits gained by any participant and Bowdoin was investments lost by other participants, according to the complaint.
Callers to AdSurfDaily's headquarters Wednesday were greeted with a voice message, saying the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia has stopped the company from making payments. AdSurfDaily's lawyers have advised its customer service representatives to not answer the phone and to not comment on the investigation, the message said.
"We have some of the best legal minds in the nation working to resolve our issue just as soon as possible so that we can return to normal operation," the message added. "Until it's resolved, keep the faith. If God be for us, who can be against us?"
An investigation into the company is ongoing, the DOJ said in a press release. The agency hasn't filed any criminal charges so far.