No Stranger To Controversy, Donald Allen Says He Is Cooperating With Secret Service In INetGlobal Probe And Has ‘One Hell Of A Story’ To Tell
UPDATED 6:08 P.M. ET (U.S.A. JAN. 20, 2011.)
EDITOR’S NOTE: The story below includes an assertion by Donald Allen that his IBNN.org website was knocked offline Sunday by a company with ties to INetGlobal. Moments before the story was set for publication, the IBNN website returned. The story does not reflect this later event, and it is possible that the site is not viewable in all parts of the world owing to an apparent change in nameservers. Events surrounding the apparent change in nameservers are unclear.
Acknowledging he had been advised that he potentially has “exposure” in the INetGlobal Ponzi scheme investigation, Donald Allen II said this morning that he had nothing to hide and would cooperate with the U.S. Secret Service and federal prosecutors “100 percent.”
That cooperation already has begun, Allen said. He added that his thinking about INetGlobal has evolved since the Feb. 23 raid of company headquarters in Minneapolis, and he insisted he was out of the loop on INetGlobal’s financial affairs and that his efforts to promote the firm were legitimate.
“Let me make it perfectly clear,” Allen said this morning. “I did the Global News Distribution and was never let in to the ‘workings’ of iNetGlobal. I met with the US Secret Service and [its] position is that I ‘shielded’ [Steve Renner] to operate a Ponzi, which is untrue.”
Allen, a vice president with V-Newswire, an entity in the INetGlobal family controlled by Renner, claimed this morning that the company had blocked his access and the access of readers to a public-affairs Blog he operates. The Blog is known as the Independent Business News Network (IBNN).
The company, Allen asserted, was penalizing him “for coming forward to answer ANY questions the Government has regarding iNetGlobal.”
Renner has not been charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing. The Secret Service said in court documents filed in February that “there is probable cause to believe that Renner is operating a large, Internet-based, Ponzi scheme through his umbrella corporation, InterMark, and some of its subsidiaries, particularly Virtual Payment Systems [LLC of Wisconsin/Brackets Denoting the LLC Designation added Jan. 20, 2011], V-Media, Cash Cards International, and V-Local.”
NOTE IN BOLD ADDED JAN. 20, 2011: An Indianapolis-based company known as Virtual Payment Systems Inc. has contacted the PP Blog to let it know it is not affiliated with the Renner company Virtual Payment Systems LLC of Wisconsin, which is referenced in the paragraph above.
The Secret Service alleged INetGlobal was the “primary vehicle for the perpetration of this fraud.”
INetGlobal, which features an advertising rotator, is the so-called “autosurfing” platform of the Renner companies. The government has prosecuted several autosurf companies in recent years, saying they were selling investment programs disguised as advertising programs and engaging in wire fraud and money-laundering.
Renner’s company has a high concentration of Chinese members who may have limited or no facility in English, the agency said. At least one INetGlobal member has said Americans flocked away from Renner’s autosurfing enterprise after the Secret Service, in August 2008, raided a similar company in Florida known as AdSurfDaily (ASD).
The ASD litigation is referenced in court papers in the INetGlobal case.
Allen said this morning that he also had performed work for V-Media and V-Local — both of which the Secret Service said had ties to the alleged INetGlobal fraud — but he insisted that he had done nothing wrong.
“I wasn’t privileged to know anything about the compensation program” of InetGlobal, Allen said. “I could not explain it to this day.”
An error message that reads “This Account Has Been Suspended: Please contact the V-Webs.com billing/support department as soon as possible” now appears on the IBNN site. In the early hours after Allen lost control of the Blog, the site would not return a ping and produced a “bad destination” error message, according to records.
Even though Allen moved the content of the site from a hosting company controlled by Renner weeks ago, Renner controlled the domain registration and thus has the ability to block access, Allen asserted this morning.
Allen’s access to the site was blocked sometime after “noon on Sunday,” two days after he met with the Secret Service, Allen said.
Agents appeared at his home Friday unannounced, Allen said.
He described his initial meeting with agents as “excellent.” Allen added that he is consulting with an attorney.
“[The Secret Service] asked me if I would like legal representation,” Allen said. “I said yes.”
A second meeting with the Secret Service occurred yesterday. Allen said he was consulting with his attorney again today, saying a characterization that described him as cooperating with the agency was “totally accurate.”
The move to block IBNN also followed on the heels of a letter Allen gave to Renner April 22, Allen said. The letter claimed that Allen had “clear and documented” evidence of violations of the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws in a hiring decision it made.
In the letter, Allen suggested he was not given an opportunity to interview for a job that went to an INetGlobal member with a large downline. The letter also questioned the operations of the company’s board of directors and claimed an INetGlobal “receptionist” was performing “confidential” work that should have been handled by the firm’s Human Resources department.
Moreover, Allen said this morning that nothing in his employment contract with the Renner entity permitted the company to block access to the IBNN site. He claimed that the company now wants him to sign an agreement not to write about INetGlobal and also to inspect his computer.
Allen Questions INetGlobal’s Operations
Allen said this morning that he questioned how the company was paying its bills in the aftermath of the federal seizure of its assets. He claimed a member of INetGlobal with a Chinese name had received a promotion to a position that purportedly paid $120,000 a year after the seizure. This member, Allen said, also may have a seat on the board of directors and also purportedly had a downline organization in the company that purportedly paid $10,000 a day.
His first question for Renner, Allen said, is “how is that possible with the current funds frozen by the US Government?”
Allen said his position with the company was supposed to pay $75,000, but that he had not seen “a penny.”
“I’m a little upset, a little traumatized by this attempt to shut me down, because I had one hell of a story,” Allen said. “I’m kind of devastated; I have a civil-rights Blog. A lot of people read it.”
No Stranger To Controversy
Allen and his IBNN Blog have been the subjects of controversy. He used an offshoot of the Blog to claim in March that “federal officials” were leaking information about the INetGlobal case to the PP Blog. After the PP Blog began to report on INetGlobal, Allen began to post comments on the PP Blog without initially identifying himself as a Renner employee, claiming that the PP Blog was “minor league” and engaging in a “witch hunt.”
Separately, Allen used the IBNN Blog to attack the Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis St. Paul for its coverage of the INetGlobal raid. Meanwhile, Allen’s name is listed in the Secret Service affidavit filed in February to obtain search warrants at the firm’s headquarters. In the affidavit, the agency painted Allen as a person who provided confusing information to an INetGlobal prospect at a January event in Flushing, N.Y.
Undercover agents attended the Flushing event, and one agent’s observations of Allen are noted in the affidavit.
An INetGlobal prospect “stated she was struggling to understand how the business worked and explained that the person who brought her to the conference was not able to explain it either,” the agency said in the affidavit. “She asked what would happen if she sold iNetGlobal products to someone who had a website and they did not see an increase in their profits.
“Donald Allen asked her what type of products the person was selling and the woman gave the example of beauty products,” the agency continued in the affidavit. “Donald Allen replied that if she was advertising beauty products and not selling any, then maybe she should be in a different business. The woman further challenged Donald Allen on people not truly viewing the websites, just simply opening them. Patricio Diez, iNetGlobalâ€™s marketing director for Spanish-speaking countries, then stated that ‘that doesnâ€™t matter for you.’
“When the woman pressed further, stating that it does matter to whomever she sold the package to, Donald Allen simply stated ‘we have solutions for that’ but failed to expand upon those solutions,” the agency said.
After the raid at INetGlobal’s offices in Minneapolis, Allen used the IBNN Blog to criticize both the media and the government for what he described as unfair treatment of the company — without disclosing his tie to the firm. Allen later told the PP Blog he should have disclosed the tie.
Allen said this morning that his thinking about INetGlobal has evolved. He added that he also had revisited certain events at INetGlobal and had come to believe that things were not quite right.
At an event in Las Vegas last year, for example, Allen was not given time to talk to attendees about V-Local, he said. In recent days he has publicly questioned why few if any members were interested in purchasing the company’s editorial products.
“I canâ€™t recall ever selling a press release to a Chinese member of iNetGlobal,” Allen said in a comment on the PP Blog April 23. “My yearly budget was in-part based on iNetGlobal members buying a press release from V-Newswire — hasn’t happened yet.”
Meanwhile, Allen said this morning that he was sympathetic to Steven Keough, INetGlobal’s former chief executive officer and potentially the government’s star witness in the case. The company has claimed Keough tried to hatch an extortion plot after he was dismissed for incompetence.
“Keough understood that INetGlobal members needed to buy the products,” Allen said this morning. “Steven Keough was the best thing that ever happened to that company,” adding that he believed Keough saw “noncompliance” with laws and was dismissed for pointing them out.
See earlier story.