August 16, 2006 8:18 AM PDT

AOL goes digging for spammer's gold

After threatening to get tough on serial junk e-mailers 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 that they have not seen their son in more that a year, not since he was fined $12.8 million by a U.S. court under the 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 his assets. The company also hopes that 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 believes that 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 to go to court again.

AOL UK did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
spammer, garden, America Online Inc., parent, Time Warner Inc.


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saving face
Is this gesture and follow-through on their 3 year old promise too little too late to save face with dwindling subscribers? <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
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Am I missing something?
Somebody please tell me that at least it's gonna be the police digging up that garden?

Wouldn't anything that's burried there be the property of the owner of the estate? Or of the city?

Shouldn't the parents be taken in police custody if there's any reason to believe they know where their son is, instead of "embarrassing them in public"?
Posted by MaxRock17 (11 comments )
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God, they're so pathetic...
I hope to God they have REASON to believe this spammer has hidden unjustly gotten gains under his parents garden.

If not, the court that gave them permission to do so is wrong. You don't harrass the family of somebody who's broken the law, you go after them.

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
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