August 18, 2006 11:39 AM PDT

Couple to AOL: Stop searching for spammer's gold

A small-town New England couple says AOL's search for a spammer's gold on their property must be stopped.

In May 2005, AOL won a $12.8 million lawsuit against Davis Wolfgang Hawke and two other men who AOL says made millions by targeting AOL members with spam offers for everything from penile implants and spying software to diet pills, according to court documents. Not long after, Hawke disappeared.

Hawke, a reputed member of a neo-Nazi group, was born Andrew Britt Greenbaum and changed his name to hide his Jewish heritage, according to his mother, who says she thinks he's in Belize.

Now AOL aims to collect, even if that means digging for gold on Hawke's parents' property in Medfield, Mass., located about 22 miles southwest of Boston.

"Not that we're hiding anything; it's just that we haven't been a part of any of Britt's spamming activities."
--Peggy Greenbaum, mother of convicted spammer

That's not sitting well with Hyman and Peggy Greenbaum. Peggy Greenbaum says the couple had nothing to do with spamming and can't believe that their son would be "stupid" enough to bury gold bars on their property.

"We don't have an attorney. My husband is writing an objection, and I'm writing an objection to searching our property and also the interior of house--any kind of search," Peggy Greenbaum said in an interview with CNET "Not that we're hiding anything; it's just that we haven't been a part of any of Britt's spamming activities."

The Greenbaums may not have much of a say in the matter. In April, U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton granted a motion giving AOL the right to any property that Hawke left with his parents or his grandparents.

AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham confirmed that the company has obtained a court order, but he would not say when or where, exactly, the company plans to search.

Sophisticated search planned
Peggy Greenbaum said she has not yet received a court order to specifically search her property, a four-bedroom home on almost 2 acres of wooded land. But she and her husband did receive a letter telling them to send a list of any effects Hawke left behind at their home. The list amounted to nothing more than some old furniture and his baby clothes, she said.

AOL plans to use sophisticated sonar and radar detection to determine if there is anything of significance on the property they search, Graham said. If the company finds something that "looks" like gold or platinum, then it will be ready to disrupt the soil. Graham said AOL plans to conduct any search in a professional manner, with an effort to make minimal disruption to the property and its owners.

"I don't think he buried any gold on our property because he's not that stupid. And I don't think AOL thinks he did, either," Peggy Greenbaum said.

Greenbaum does believe the gold or platinum bars exist, though. According to her, Hawke told his father that he had purchased gold, but not how much. While the notion of the purchase seemed strange, Hawke's parents chalked it up to their son's eccentric nature.

Greenbaum says her son, now in his late 20s, was never quite right mentally after an extended bout of physical abuse by school bullies, who targeted Hawke for being Jewish when they lived in the rural town of Lakeville, Mass., leaving him with a permanently damaged hand.

From receipts shown to her and her husband by AOL, Greenbaum believes that at least $365,000 in gold or platinum bars exists. But she doubts that her son buried anything on their property, because he knew his parents had plans to move.

"Before AOL even sued him, we weren't sure how long we were going to be here because the house is so big," his mother said. "I am hoping to move soon, but I don't want to move right away. I don't want people to think I'm moving because know...all the publicity. My point is that Britt was fully aware of the fact that we planned to move, but that we weren't sure when."

Greenbaum said that, in addition to saying he had stashed his spam profits on her property, Hawke also bragged to a former girlfriend about burying assets on his grandfather's property, the Rocky Woods hiking reservation in Medfield and in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Greenbaum said she doesn't believe those stories, however. Hawke is "crazy as a June bug," according to Greenbaum, so there is no telling what was going on in his mind or where he has hid his fortune.

AOL says it considers this search business as usual.

"This particular defendant may have a colorful and outrageous history--there are some conditions that might make this case unique--but in terms of pursuing assets or property, that is not new," Graham said. "AOL has recovered a Porsche, as well as a Hummer and gold coins. This is simply a continuation of efforts that we have been known to conduct in the past and have been successful at."

See more CNET content tagged:
gold, America Online Inc., property, spammer, spamming


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Finally somebody is doing something about spammers. Spam costs money and people pay it, if you sum it up it's a loooot of money :(
Pixel image editor - <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by firstlast (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bitter victory.
Now the money would go to AOL...
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
FYI firstlast
you're spamming your message board with your link...
Posted by dondarko (261 comments )
Link Flag
Bulldoze away
What a love child this couple produced: a Nazi and a Spammer. I say go AOL. Bulldoze away. I'd rather see the "kid" sent to Sing Sing, but short of that, I say raze.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
To Hell With Parents Property Rights ... NOT!!!
I hope they take this all the way to the Supreme Court. AOL merely wishes to destroy the assets of the parents lifetime.

In the alternative, AOL could buy the parents home (at market value) and dig in the sandbox all they want. Might be cheaper than litigating, especially if the Greenbaum's find a anti-AOL ally.

(Any anti-AOL people out there?)
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Link Flag
It would be great if they found the spammer's body buried there
Though I suppose that could also end up costing AOL some cleanup costs,
since spammers are considered toxic waste.
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Link Flag
This is the only thing they appear to be successful at
God knows, they don't know how to run much of a business. Charging outrageous prices for dialup and even "bring your own broadband" access to the point where business is so bad they were (at one time) talking about giving it away.

I have no tolerance whatsoever for spammers and I'd love to see the guy get nailed. However, digging up his parents property is outrageous and goes way overboard.

But I guess they can say there's one thing they're successful at, even if it's not their core business...

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No harm-No foul
Seems if Hawke had had the foresight to flee he probably had the foresight to take his hidden fortune with him up.. If AOL uses sonar and radar detection no harm no foul. Hopefully C/net will keep us updated with this story..
SOS.....Stomp out Spaming
Posted by daytr8tr (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Why is AOL taking this spammer's assets??
Spam should be illegal, but the story doesn't say that he ripped off any one. Who gets the money that AOL collects?? AOL?? How was AOL victimized???
Will the assets that AOL collects be used to lower AOL costs to consumers.
Will AOL pay consumers for allowing spam on thier site in the first place??
If Hawke cheated people with scams, the lawsuit would have said so. Hawk would be subject to punishment by the courts, and his assets would go to the people he victimized.
Hawk only caused inconvience to the people he spamed who didn't want his distasteful adds. Obviously many people did want his adds, or he wouldn't have made any money. He gets paid by your purchaes.
A fine for spamming makes sense. Make him pay for inconveniencing the recipients. Fine him for anything concidered immoral.
Pay AOL for allowing him to spam???
Posted by gestry (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Internet is not free
Believe it or not, but the Internet is not free.
Spam uses resources. Network bandwidth, memory storage, etc. Spammers steal these resources. So AOL wants the money back to pay for the use of their resources.
Posted by JoeF2 (1306 comments )
Link Flag
in a previos version of this story
On CNN or on here one, I can't remember which, but I know I read it, Aol stated that the assets will be lottoried off to winning customers.
Posted by techguy83 (295 comments )
Link Flag
Not sure fraud was involved.
He spammed, he profited. SPamming is bad, but when did profit become a dirty word?
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Link Flag
read the article before posting
Did you ready any of the articles about this guy?

AOL sued him and won, he fled the country without paying what the court ordered.


And nice for his parents to pull that whole he got beatup because he's jewish. Half of New England is jewish so nice try.
Posted by faust (41 comments )
Link Flag
nothing unusual
If you sue someone and win, you're entitled to go after their assets. It's really that simple.

If someone gets sued and was under 18 when they committed the acts that got them sued, the parents are liable.

And there are laws on the books that allow you to bring a lawsuit in civil court (as opposed to criminal court) against someone who is spamming.
Posted by sjsobol (115 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amusing and sad...
I find it amusing that AOL goes after troubled
kids and their parents instead of the root of the
problem. Follow the money people! Who truly profits
from spam? Anybody? It starts with the word ad-
and ends with -tisers. Figured it out yet?
Of course AOL can't sue the advertisers as this is
their bread and butter. So who do they go after?
The occasional spam monkey. Clearly there is
something wrong with this picture. AOL has always
been unsophisticated in its approach to the internet,
no surprise here.
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Crocs Jibbitz of Bull
I would say this is a PR stunt by AOL. It is like Crocs <a href="">Jibbitz</a> which have nothing to do with shoes but are toy add ons to <a href="">Crocs Sandal</a>.
Posted by mrwavetheory (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Crocs Jibbitz
The posted didn't go through. Crocs Jibbitz <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Crocs Sandal <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by mrwavetheory (11 comments )
Link Flag
Another Spam Monkey
Spam is ridiculously easy to block with filters..

Anybody listening at CNet News?
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Link Flag
Slightly confuzed
I will admit i'm confuzed by the entire thing. O.k. so Ding Dong spammed alot of people and got caught and he may have told someone somewhere that he buried it someplace (i've heard that he did it at his parents or grandparents or in the woods). Without some sort of evidence (not just some talk) how can the law legally allow person a to do anything on person b's property? Its possible CNet didn't make a stronger connection within the story, i mean if it was drugs or something i would understand but Gold that may or maynot exist 'owned' by a person they dont even have in custody? If i were the parents i'd seek legal action. Just because my son is an idiot, doesn't mean I would be responsibile for his actions.
Posted by BeamerMT (64 comments )
Reply Link Flag
here's how...
This is simple civil law. I'm no lawyer but these are the rough
basics of it...

1. LAWSUIT - File your lawsuit in civil court.
2. JUDGEMENT - Prove your case and win a monetary
3. COLLECTION- That judgement then gives you the legal right
to collect the amount using such things as wage garnishment,
real estate foreclosure, bank account seizure, property seizure,
etc. etc, etc.

This simple process applies to everyone. You can sue, then if
you win, you can collect. The judgement you won gives you the
right to collect using any legal method.

Who do I hate more? AOL selling a $10 service for $27 or
Spammers. I cancelled AOL years ago, so the answer is
Posted by Sparky672 (244 comments )
Link Flag
PR & BS from AOL, LOL!
Have an AOL account?
Try this. Create a new user. Don't tell anybody. When the
mailbox starts getting spam, you'll know who to blame.

AOL's idea for "certified" e-mail is just a way for them to make
money from spam. The spammers pay them to make sure the
spam gets through the filters.

As for the parents, my guess is the whole thing is a ploy to get
the boy to surface. If he's smart enough to turn spam into gold,
he took it with him.

Posted by lampietheclown (73 comments )
Reply Link Flag
AOL is the primary purveyors of Spam
and this whole thing is an idiotic publicity stunt. Does AOL really think this whole thing will distract from their own lousy service and abuse of their customers like charging dead people for AOL accounts.

To top it off instead of going after the really vicious spammers out of Russia and Nigeria, who are actually part of organized crime, and target companies that oppose them; they're going after some mentally ill kid who belongs in a psych ward and not even after him but his parents???
Posted by gubbord (171 comments )
Reply Link Flag
just WHO spams?
certainly not the govt.. neo nazi? what a F- circus
Posted by freq (121 comments )
Reply Link Flag
For the South Park Fans...

Honestly though if the kid disappeared with his Nazi Friends wouldn't he take the Gold bars with him? Or cash them in? Seems pretty absurd to me.
Posted by larrymadill (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Some one make money from spam
Some one make money from spam
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by jetbrains (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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