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AOL goes digging for spammer's gold

Company, owed $12 million by a spammer, gets permission to dig for gold and platinum bars in his parents' garden.

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 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.