AOL is seeking to excavate grounds owned by parents of a convicted spammer in the hopes of finding gold bars and other buried booty thought to be worth up to $500,000.
The ISP is seeking to uncover the cache of treasure to recover part of the $12.8m judgment awarded to it in a lawsuit against penis-pill purveyor Davis Hawke.
Hawke was held responsible for sending at least 130,000 spam emails to AOL subscribers over three months during 2004 in a May 2005 judgement, made in his absence.
AOL's investigations have led it to conclude that $500,000 in gold and platinum bars might be hidden in or around Hawke's parents' home in Medfield, Massachusetts.
The net services giant wants to send in the bulldozers to hunt for the booty in the two acres of land owned by Hawke's parents and near his grandparents' home in nearby Westwood. The tip-off of the potential location of the loot came from Hawke's ex-girlfriend, Patricia Lingenfelter, who describes her former squeeze as "fundamentally lazy".
The enforcement of previous orders obtained by AOL against spammers have involved seizures of Porsche sports cars, gold coins, and other property worth millions, funds the internet firm has ploughed back into its efforts at eradicating irksome junk mail. However, this is the first time the ISP has sought to find a spam pirate's buried treasure.
AOL obtained receipts of gold purchases made by Hawke in order to persuade a judge to make the excavation order.
AP reports that Hawke's parents plan to challenge the order, which would involve temporarily removing them and Hawke's grandparents from their respective properties. AOL plans to use sonar and radar equipment to assist its search in order to minimise damage.
Hawke's mother, Peggy Greenbaum, denies that her son's assets are hidden about her property. Meanwhile, the man himself has gone to ground, according to AOL.
"I don't care if they dig up the entire yard. They're just going to make fools of themselves," Hawke's mother Peggy Greenbaum said. "There's absolutely no reason for them to think that Davis Hawke would be stupid enough to bury gold on our property. My son is long gone."
Hawke, a reported neo-nazi activist in his youth who renounced his birth name, Andrew Britt Greenbaum, and his affiliates are reckoned to have raked in more than $600,000 each month through spamvertising loans, porn, jewellery, and prescription drugs. The family say they haven't seen him for a year. ®