AOL goes digging for spammer's gold

The company is owed $12m in damages by a spammer, and wants to recover some of the loot by finding gold and platinum bars in his parents' garden
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

After threatening to get tough on serial junk emailers three years ago, AOL intends to show its conviction has not wavered by digging up the garden belonging to the parents of a convicted spammer — in pursuit of buried gold and platinum.

On Tuesday the company announced that it intended to dig up the garden in Massachusetts belonging to the parents of Davis Wolfgang Hawke. The parents claim they have not seen their son in more that a year, not since he was fined $12.8m by a US court under the US Can-Spam Act.

There is a precedent for confiscating the ill-gotten gains of spammers. Last year, AOL confiscated a Hummer and $100,000 in gold bars and cash from another spammer in Massachusetts. The company then gave it away to AOL users in a free competition.

The company has spent the last year looking for Hawke and now is trying to recover some of Hawke's assets. The company also hopes Hawke will finally step forward to save his family from the embarrassment of seeing its garden dug up in very public circumstances.

Not that Hawke's mother, Peggy Greenbaum, seemed unduly embarrassed by the circumstances when she spoke to the Associated Press. "I don't care if they dig up the entire yard," she said. "They're just going to make fools of themselves."

Greenbaum said the family believe AOL, which got a court's permission to use a bulldozer in its search for the missing gold, is looking in the wrong place anyway and that any treasure will be found more than 100 miles away under the White Mountains. It is likely that if AOL wants to go digging under what are commonly believed to be the most scenic mountains in New England, it may need more permissions.

AOL UK had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.

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