AOL digs for gold to pay for spam
Company seeks millions in damages from spammer, searches for gold bars believed to be buried on his Massachusetts property.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- AOL is digging for gold in an effort to recover millions owed by a man it sued for sending out spam, searching for gold and platinum bars he is believed to have buried.
"This is just a case of a company working on behalf of its customers - going after a spammer's assets to the tune of $12.8 million," AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said. "We have tried to contact the defendant... but to no avail. We have tried every legal avenue possible."
"This is not 'Blue's Clues,'" Graham said. "This is a court-supported, legal protected effort to collect assets due us."
AOL won a $12.8 million judgment last year in U.S. District Court in Virginia against Davis Wolfgang Hawke after suing him for sending millions of unsolicited e-mails to its customers.
Because it has been unable to contact Hawke to recover any of the money, AOL plans to dig on his Medfield, Mass., property for the bars, Graham said. The search has been permitted by the court. Court documents list Hawke's last known residence as being in Medfield.
"We believe that it could be as much as half a million dollars or more in gold," he said. "We have receipts that have been submitted to the court indicating he purchased platinum and gold bars."
"This is not new," Graham said. "We've seized cars before, cash, gold coins and other assets including a boat, and even worked with the Virginia attorney general to put a lien on several houses."
Graham said he did not know when the digging would begin. Any money recovered, he said, would be used in AOL's spyware and spam protection programs.
AOL is owned by Time Warner, which is also the parent company of CNNMoney.com.