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February 17, 2006

FBI Probes Auto-Surf Site, Ponzi Scam Alleged



Courtesy of TechWeb News

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced this week that it has begun an inquiry into 12dailypro.com, a so-called "auto-surfing" marketing company that's been accused of running a Ponzi scam.

"The FBI, in concert with the United States Attorney's Office of the Western District, is conducting this assessment to determine if further federal investigation into this matter is warranted," an FBI statement issued Wednesday by its Charlotte, N.C. office read.

"The FBI routinely assesses these types of allegations due to the potential for wide-spread victims and to determine if federal violations have occurred," the statement continued.

12dailypro is one of several "auto-surf" sites on the Web that promise large returns to members who agree to view their ads. More than two weeks ago, its payment processor, StormPay, suspended payments to 12dailypro members, claiming that the site was an illegal Ponzi scheme.

Named for Charles Ponzi, who gained notoriety in the 1920s, a Ponzi scheme is a fraud that promises outrageous investor returns but pays them with money from new investors rather than revenue actually generated by the business.

Last weekend, StormPay was hit with a denial-of-service (DoS) attack that knocked its service offline for two days. Experts believed then that an extortionist made good on a threat and launched the attack after StormPay refused to pay to avoid the assault.

12dailypro.com members, including the company's president, Charis Johnson, continued to rail against StormPay on message forums, at times taking a conspiratorial view of the Ponzi allegations.

"The fact is that kind of media in this world are only pawns for a larger enemy, who will eventually lose his battle. Yesterday I lost sight of that," wrote Johnson Thursday. "I am under fire right now and my faith is being tested. I will continue to pray that I will not act as the world does and I will remember who's ultimately in control."

She was confident, however, that the FBI investigation would exonerate 12dailypro. "We have been completely up front with investigators and have answered all questions posed to us and cooperated fully," she wrote on Wednesday. "Let me assure you, had they deemed this to be a scam, I would not be chatting with you right now. I would be in custody."

For its part, StormPay is under investigation by Tennessee authorities who are conducting an audit of the 30,000 to 35,000 frozen 12dailypro accounts.

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