BREAKING NEWS: Secret Service Feared Bowdoin Would Flee Country After Moving Money Offshore And Relinquishing His Interest In Golden Panda Ad Builder
The U.S. Secret Service feared AdSurfDaily President Andy Bowdoin had become aware of scrutiny into his business affairs and planned to flee the country, according to a 37-page affidavit originally filed under seal in the case.
Meanwhile, the affidavit revealed that a key Secret Service investigator in the case formerly was a member of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force in Florida and was experienced in “investigating large criminal organizations that distributed and sold controlled substances.”
The Secret Service affidavit, however, did not list allegations of a drug crime. Instead the agency focused on what was described as a “wide-spread Ponzi fraud” and the crimes of wire-fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, noting that the affidavit had been “submitted for the limited purposes of establishing probable cause.”
“I have not included every detail of every aspect of the investigation for this affidavit,” the agent who prepared the affidavit said. “Rather, it only includes the information necessary to prove that probable cause exists for a seizure warrant to be issued for property constituting proceeds of a wire fraud scheme.”
Accompanying the affidavit were government exhibits of evidence totaling 57 pages, all of which were reviewed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay, who determined that the Secret Service had established probable cause to seize 10 Bowdoin bank accounts.
In a series of 13 orders dated Aug. 1, 2008, Kay directed the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “and any Authorized Officer of the United Statesâ€ to seize Bowdoin’s bank accounts and three accounts tied to Golden Panda Ad Builder.
Bank of America, the financial institution in all 13 cases, was ordered to freeze the accounts.
The documents are the first to reveal that a judge other than U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer had a role in the case. Meanwhile, the documents destroy myths advanced by some ASD members that the seizure was accomplished extrajudicially, that the government was not authorized to seize the funds — and even that agents were partying with the money.
“Based [on] ASDâ€™s indication that it intends to cease accepting funds into [Bank of America] at the end of July 2008, Bowdoinâ€™s indication that he has relinquished his interest in Golden Panda [Ad Builder], and an indication that Bowdoin intends to establish his offshore presence, and the recent complaints governmental authorities have received, I believe that Bowdoin is aware of increasing scrutiny and that he intends to move himself, his proceeds, and, until it collapses possibly his operation, offshore,” the Secret Service wrote in the affidavit.
The agency said Bowdoin had moved millions of dollars into Canada just prior to the seizure
Read a warrant originally issued under seal Aug. 1, 2008, by U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay, who ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to seize a Bowdoin bank account that contained more than $31.6 million based on the government’s affidavit in the case.
On July 22, prior to the seizure and during the early part of the investigation, the Secret Service listened to a Golden Panda conference call featuring Clarence Busby, according to the affidavit.
“During the call, a person who identified himself as Busby said that Bowdoin approached him about running ‘Golden Panda,’” the Secret Service said in the affidavit. “Busby stated that he and Bowdoin were 50% partners but that Busby would be in charge of the daily operations of Golden Panda.”
But Busby’s words ultimately conflicted with a note on Golden Panda’s website “purportedly written by Bowdoin advising that he was relinquishing his role as President, as well as his ownership rights in, Golden Panda,” the Secret Service said.
A federal judge lifted the seal on the records in October 2008. Although the filings became public records upon the lifting of the seal, the information was difficult — though not impossible — to obtain though federal database searches.
Records were filed under 13 different case numbers — one for each bank account — none of which could be accessed by searching under the names of Bowdoin, Busby, AdSurfDaily or Golden Panda.
Agents had been probing ASD since early July, and increasingly gained knowledge about the firm by conducting surveillance in ASD’s home city of Quincy, Fla. Multiple agents joined the autosurf, the Secret Service said.
Among the troubling developments in the earliest days of the probe were that a bank other than Bank of America had closed a Bowdoin account amid Ponzi scheme fears and that Bowdoin was moving money into Canada, where it could not be easily traced, according to the affidavit.
Bowdoin’s behavior pointed to a plan to leave the United States, the Secret Service said.
At the same time, the Secret Service said, the FBI was beginning to receive complaints about ASD, including an inquiry from the Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce about the legitimacy of the surf firm.
Bowdoin proved to be an embarrassment for the Chamber, which initially lauded him for creating jobs but later found itself confronting troubling questions about the firm.
Investigators “also learned that Bowdoin had purchased, or was seeking to purchase, a home in another country,” according to the affidavit.
On July 12 in Miami, the Secret Service said in the affidavit, Bowdoin told attendees of an ASD “rally” that the company “was looking to purchase a South American call center, to purchase a credit card processing center, to purchase an interest in an international bank, and to profit from future investments in real estate.”
All of the ASD bank accounts were in Bowdoin’s personal name, with a “D/B/A,” the Secret Service noted.
A Dallas-based company with ties to ASD was charged in a sealed indictment in April 2008 with helping a Colombian cocaine operation launder money by providing debit cards that were used to convert drug proceeds to cash in Medellin.
The company â€” Virtual Money Inc. â€” once provided debit cards to ASD. A grand jury in the Virtual Money case authorized forfeiture complaints totaling $7.12 million. The complaint was unsealed in September 2008, several weeks after ASD’s assets were frozen. The indictment names 10 defendants, including VM President Robert Hodgins, who is believed to have fled the United States.
Prosecutors said that Virtual Money, known simply as VM, helped the Colombian drug operation offload at least $7.1 million in drug proceeds at automated teller machines in Medellin. Medellin once was home base of the infamous Medellin Cartel, operated by drug lord and terrorist Pablo Escobar. Escobar was killed by Colombia National Police in 1993.