By Ted Bridis
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
AOL is preparing to dig for buried gold and platinum on property in Massachusetts owned by the parents of a man it sued for sending millions of unwanted spam e-mails to its customers.
AOL said yesterday that it intends to search for gold and platinum bars it thinks are hidden near the home of Davis Wolfgang Hawke's parents on two acres in Medfield, Mass. The family said it will fight AOL's plan in court.
AOL won a $12.8 million judgment last year in U.S. District Court in Virginia against Hawke but has been unable to contact Hawke to collect any of the money he was ordered to pay.
"I don't care if they dig up the entire yard. They're just going to make fools of themselves," said Peggy Greenbaum, Hawke's mother.
She said AOL's lawyer notified the family that the company intends to use bulldozers and geological teams to hunt for gold and platinum on their property.
Greenbaum said she has not talked with her son in more than a year and complained about the embarrassment and humiliation he brought to the family.
Greenbaum said the family thinks Hawke buried gold in the White Mountains 130 miles north of Boston. She said he once confided to her that he bought gold -- rather than expensive homes or cars -- because it would be more difficult to seize in lawsuits.
"We don't know where he is," she said. "We certainly wouldn't allow him to put any gold on our property."
AOL defended its efforts.
"This exercise isn't something out of . . . 'Treasure Island,' " AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said. "This is a court-directed, judge-approved legal process that is simply aimed at responsibly recovering hidden assets."
To win a judge's permission for the search, AOL submitted receipts reflecting large purchases by Hawke of gold and platinum bars, Graham said. The company indicated that it thinks Hawke buried the gold and platinum on his parents' property.
AOL said it will try to accommodate Hawke's parents by not being too obtrusive.