Despite loyal following, Floridian Thomas Bowdoin charged by feds in AdSurfDaily Ponzi scheme
Wake up and good morning. Federal authorities have charged a 76-year-old Florida Panhandle man with running a Ponzi scheme that generated $110 million from people around the world. Thomas A. Bowdoin Jr. was arrested Wednesday at a rented home in Englewood, south of the Tampa Bay area, after a grand jury indictment was unsealed in Washington, D.C.
Another day in Florida, another Ponzi scheme, right? Well, Bowdoin's been on our radar for years at the St. Petersburg Times because he had developed quite a following up in Quincy, Fla., where he ran an online advertising business called AdSurfDaily as a multilevel marketing scheme that federal investigators claim morphed into a Ponzi scheme. The feds now charge Bowdoin (pronounced Bowden, like the football coach) with five counts of wire fraud and one each of securities fraud and unlawful sale of unregistered securities. If convicted on all counts, he could get up to 125 years in prison and be fined nearly $6.3 million. Read the AP story here.
Two years ago, after the first reports of Bowdoin's financial schemes emerged, St. Pete Times reporter Richard Danielson went up to Quincy to see firsthand what was happening. He met Betty and Glen Yancey -- that's them in the photo above, taken by Danielson -- who had invested in Bowdoin's scheme after selling a family farm. When Danielson asked Betty Yancey what she would tell someone thinking about trusting money to Bowdoin, she offered one word of advice: "Run." Here's the complete story.
Still, Bowdoin's AdSurfDaily or "ASD" developed quite a loyal following. Check out the many supportive comments to this 2008 BusinessWeek article. They were obviously earlier investors, not later ones.
This week's indictment says Bowdoin raised more than $110 million from thousands of investors by promising huge returns and promoted his company at rallies in Las Vegas, with ads in in- flight magazines and in an online video. Prosecutors said he avoided regulatory scrutiny by referring to investors as "members" and to investments as "ad packages." Bowdoin paid out $31 million to early investors, kept more than $1 million for himself, and spent more than $8 million promoting AdSurfDaily, according to the indictment.
So, is it fair to say that for every Ponzi schemer nabbed in Florida another dozen are born? Sure feels that way.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist