KABOOM! Agents Tie Alleged ‘Evolution Market Group’ Ponzi And HYIP Fraud Scheme To Narcotics Case In Arizona; Tens Of Millions Of Dollars Seized; Firms Promoted On ASA Monitor, TalkGold Forums
Kaboom! It has happened again. Explosive court filings by the government show that kneejerk apologists and defenders of High Yield Investment Programs (HYIPs) and autosurfs are quickly running out of cover when they assert that anything is noble or even real about the programs they relentlessly push for their share of purported profits from introducing others to the schemes.
A law-enforcement task force consisting of the U.S. Secret Service, the IRS and veteran investigators from other agencies that specialize in reverse-engineering complex money-laundering networks have tied funds from a widely promoted online HYIP to the international narcotics trade and a murky money-services business. Research shows that the program and offshoots could have gathered between $100 million and $200 million before the wanton criminality was exposed after exhaustive investigations. The program was advertised as lucrative and harmless on the Ponzi-friendly ASA Monitor and TalkGold forums.
Research by the PP Blog suggests the purported investment program was so sordid that promoters even claimed some of the funds were being used for the “humanitarian” purpose of assisting kidnapping victims in Colombia. In a sickening display of marketing theatrics, a claim was made that investors could “adopt” kidnapping victims for a payment of $1,000 and that the company would set aside $500 in corporate funds for each victim so that their families could have bright futures if the victims ultimately were released by their captors.
The HYIP scheme allegedly was associated with an entity known as Evolution Market Group (EMG), which purportedly had a Forex component known as FinanzasForex. Investigators alleged in JanuaryÂ that there were schemes within schemes in a tangled web of domestic and international deception that featured dozens of bank accounts, shell companies and various fronts for money-laundering enterprises, including companies purportedly in businesses such as real estate and car washes.
The scheme was so corrupt, according to court filings, that some investors were told that, in order to leave the program whole, they had to recruit new investors, have the new investors pay them directly — and use the proceeds from the new investors to “recover” their initial outlays.
Members of the same Florida-based task force also are involved in the AdSurfDaily autosurf Ponzi scheme investigation. In the ASD case, records show that the company once advertised a debit card federal prosecutors in Connecticut say was offered by a Dallas-based firm that laundered money for a narco business in Medellin, Colombia. The Dallas firm, known as Virtual Money Inc. (VM), also agreed to launder purported drug proceeds in the Dominican Republic, according to court filings.
Robert Hodgins, the operator of VM, is now an international fugitive wanted by INTERPOL.
ASA and TalkGold are infamous for promoting international financial frauds, with posters routinely describing the programs as legitimate. The very first post about the alleged EMG scheme at ASA referenced yet another Ponzi scheme — 12DailyPr0 — and informed prospects that they could earn commissions by introducing the alleged Forex component of EMG to others.
“I have been in internet business for 3 years now and in autosurf industry from 12dailypro,” an ASA poster began, while promoting EMG’s Finanzas Forex arm, which investigators now say was part of a grandiose scheme with tentacles in Central America, South America and Europe.
“And the (sic) you can earn also money from people under you if you want, you get 0,5% (sic) from every one that you bring (0,5% (sic) from his investment),” the poster said in April 2008.
Court filings in the EMG case paint a picture of an incredibly elaborate maze of companies and bank accounts set up to confuse both investors and law enforcement. At least 59 bank accounts, 294 bars of gold and nine luxury vehicles have been seized in the case. One of the cars was a 2008 Lamborghini Murcielago valued at more than $430,000.
The EMG allegations are explosive because they showcase the now-undeniable fact that people who promote programs such as HYIPs and autosurfs because such programs may pay “commissions” to recruit new members may be operating as fronts or conduits for international drug dealers and money-launderers.
Although ASD is not mentioned in a Task Force affidavit in the EMG case, forfeiture complaints against assets tied to both companies include similar allegations of wanton, relentless fraud. Compellingly, EMG allegedly sponsored “rallies” of members, an allegation in common with allegations in the ASD case. At the same time, research suggests that EMG touted offshore events in exotic locations.
AdViewGlobal, an autosurf with close ties to ASD, also touted offshore venues and once sponsored at least one meeting on a ship at sea, according to members.
Meanwhile, research suggests that both EMG and ASD went to great lengths to mask the schemes just prior to interventions by law enforcement and that both schemes had ties to narcotics traffickers and professional money-launderers.
Both the alleged EMG and ASD schemes were operating during the same general time period, roughly between 2006 and 2008, according to court filings. Each of the schemes had components of investment fraud that targeted people who spoke Spanish or English. Task Force agents have been investigating entities and individuals linked to EMG since June 1, 2008, including a mysterious entity known as DWB Holding Co.
“The conspiracy to commit wire fraud offenses that gives rise to this action is an international Ponzi/Pyramid scheme operated by Evolution Market Group (EMG) d/b/a Finanzas Forex, DWB Holding Company (DWB), Superior International Investments Corporation (SIIC), German Cardona (Cardona), Daniel Fernandez Rojo Filho (Rojo Filho), Pedro Benevides (Benevides) and others in which investors have been defrauded out of millions of dollars,” federal prosecutors said.
Federal agencies, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), seized “financial accounts” in DWB’s name during a drug investigation in Arizona, according to court filings in Florida. One account seized during the drug probe contained more than $24 million. The money was seized on Aug. 22 and Aug. 26, 2008, about three to four weeks after agents seized more than $80 million in the ASD case.
A section of U.S. law referenced in the EMG forfeiture complaint refers to “cocaine” and “marihuana,” among other drugs.
As the investigation progressed, agents established additional money-laundering links — and other bank accounts were seized, according to court filings. The precise mechanism by which purported investment money ended up in accounts seized in the drug case was not immediately clear.
Shameful Behavior By HYIP And ‘Surf Advocates
Still promoting autosurfs and HYIPs? Still selling yourself on the delusional theory that they’re harmless and that only “Socialists” or “Nazis” would support the government’s efforts to destroy them? Still arguing that journalists who write about the cases are “liberal” lackeys, have no understanding of the “real” issues and won’t be pleased until every single American entrepreneur is assigned an individual bureaucrat to make their lives miserable?
Still calling for federal prosecutors and Secret Service agents to be investigated because you love your downline commissions gleaned from Ponzi proceeds and the sale of unregistered securities, don’t want to part with them and figure that, if only you scream loudly enough and long enough, you’ll be able to persuade your fellow Americans that the cops are the real crooks?
In August 2009, the PP Blog reported that members of ASD, which is implicated in an autosurfÂ Ponzi scheme involving tens of millions of dollars, advertised that the company used the debit-card services of VM in Dallas. Research suggests that Hodgins or a VM designate attended an ASD function in Florida shortly after ASD’s launch in late 2006.
Prosecutors said that VM helped the Colombian drug operation offload at least $7.1 million in illegal 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.
Escobar was implicated in the assassination of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos GalÃ¡n and the bombing of Avianca Flight 203 over Colombia, which killed 110 people.
Autosurf and HYIP promoters long have claimed that participation in the illegal enterprises is harmless. The indictment against VM â€” and the allegations that it laundered money for a Colombian drug organization â€” demonstrates the dangers of participating in murky businesses in which participants have no way of knowing what is in the hearts and minds of other participants.
It was not immediately clear how long ASD used the VM debit card, which was heavily promoted in early 2007 when ASD said it was having cash-flow problems. By 2008, ASD said it was generating tens of millions of dollars of revenue per week. Some members said they observed huge sums of cash and brief cases full of cashier’s checks at ASD rallies in Florida cities.
Two Colombian conspirators â€œdirected their agents in the United States to provide proceeds of sales of controlled substances to agents of VIRTUAL MONEY, INC. to be sent to Colombia so the proceeds could be made available to the clients,â€ according to the indictment against Hodgins.
VM â€œstored value cards were used by the members of the conspiracy to make available at a Daviviendo Bank ATM in Medellin, Colombia the peso equivalent of US $2,430,810.24 in April 2006; US $2,437,023.53 in June 2006; and US $2,257,761.45 in August 2006,â€ prosecutors charged.
VM and its president, Robert Hodgins, were indicted under seal in 2008 in a case brought by the DEA. The seal was lifted in September 2008, a month after the U.S. Secret Service seized 15 bank accounts in the ASD case.
ASD was accused by the Secret Service of operating an international Ponzi scheme.
One of the alleged components of the ASD scheme was an autosurf named LaFuenteDinero, which targeted people who spoke Spanish. Records show that one of the Secret Service agents involved in the ASD investigation formerly was a member of a DEA Task Force in Florida and was experienced in â€œinvestigating large criminal organizations that distributed and sold controlled substances.â€
In November 2009, the PP Blog reported that the Secret Service expressed a fear in court documents originally filed under seal that ASD President Andy Bowdoin had become aware of scrutiny into his business affairs in 2008 and planned to flee the United States.
â€œBased [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,â€ the Secret Service wrote in an affidavit.
Golden Panda was the purported “Chinese” arm of ASD, according to court filings.
The agency said Bowdoin had moved millions of dollars into Canada just prior to the seizure of his assets.
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. The entire sum was in an account under Bowdoin’s name. Agents eventually seized at least nine other Bowdoin accounts that, in the aggregate, contained more than $34.2 million.
In recent days, the PP BlogÂ reported that the alleged INetGlobal autosurf Ponzi scheme in Minnesota, which allegedly targeted Chinese prospects,Â had ties to at least three other Ponzi cases, including ASD and a separate Florida case in which it was alleged that the same debit-card company that provided services for INetGlobal provided services for a company implicated in a $22 million Ponzi scheme with ties to Panama.
Some INetGlobal members provided Chinese prospects instructions on how to offload profits onto debit cards that could be used to withdraw cash at ATM machines, according to promotional material for INetGlobal. About $26 million has been seized in the INetGlobal case.
INetGlobal-related entities such as Cash Cards International (CCI) and V-Cash now have been linked to a fourth financial-fraud scheme known as Megafund. In the $13 million Megafund case, it was alleged that CCI and V-Cash provided services for certain participants in the Megafund HYIP scheme. At least $175,000 purportedly transferred by a mysterious entity known as MexBank S.A. de C.V. passed through CCC and V-Cash, according to court filings.
The money was described in court filings as commission payments for the Megafund scheme. Authorities later determined that MexBank was “neither a bank nor a legitimate financial institution licensed” in Mexico, despite its official-sounding name.
Bradley C. Stark, one of the defendants in the Megafund case, was convicted in 2003 of possessing counterfeit government securities. He was released from prison and was on probation while participating in the Megafund scheme, according to court records. The scheme targeted Christians, and investors were told money was being directed to humanitarian causes.
Forbes magazine wrote about the Megafund case in July 2005, in a story titled “Too Good To Be True.”
Less than four years later, the AdViewGlobal autosurf sent an email to members that included Forbes’ logo in a sales pitch. Research showed that the logo had been hotlinked from Forbes’ website and that AdViewGlobal members were attempting to create the appearance that the famous publishing company had endorsed the autosurf scheme. Like the Megafund and EMG schemes, participants in AdViewGlobal were told a portion of the money was devoted to humanitarian causes, including a purported fund devoted to preserving the rainforest.
In the AdSurfDaily case, members said the company touted a contribution of 100,000 “ad packs” to a charity. The donation was used by promoters to position Bowdoin as a benevolent human being.
At an ASD rally in Las Vegas in 2008, Bowdoin asserted that he thanked God daily for making him a “money magnet,” and he implored members to imagine themselves coming into large sums of money through rebates on ASD advertising purchases that not only would return 100 percent of the cost of the members’ advertisements, but also pay them at least 25 percent beyond that — more if they rolled over a percentage of their purchases.
The payment-processing arm of INetGlobal also has been tied to a Ponzi scheme known as Learn Waterhouse, which purportedly advertised a presence in Mexico, according to court filings. Four people have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in the Learn Waterhouse case, some of the underpinnings of which led to the successful prosecution of INetGlobal operator Steve Renner for income-tax evasion in December 2009.
Filings in the Learn Waterhouse case assert that Renner, who operated both CCI and V-Cash, used customers’ funds as though they were his own.
When the Learn Waterhouse receiver tried to reclaim the funds to make Ponzi victims as whole as possible, the money was not available because Renner had spent it on personal purchases, according to court filings.
If you are playing the HYIP and autosurf games, the PP Blog suggests you read these documents from the alleged EMG Ponzi case.
Amended Forfeiture Complaint in U.S. District Court in Orlando.
Still want to cheer for the HYIPs and autosurfs?