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8/10/2005
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AOL To Give Away Spammer Loot

America Online has collected a Hummer and nearly $100,000 worth of gold bars and cash as part of a settlement in a multi-million-dollar spam lawsuit.

America Online Inc. on Wednesday said it has collected a Hummer and nearly $100,000 worth of gold bars and cash as part of a settlement in a multi-million-dollar spam lawsuit.

AOL, a division of Time Warner Inc., said the goods were the result of a settlement with one of three defendants named in a lawsuit that accused them of sending millions of spam messages to AOL members. A Virginia court in the spring awarded AOL $13 million in the suit, which was filed in March 2004 under the federal CAN-SPAM Act.

AOL collected from the defendant nearly $100,000 worth of gold bars and cash and a 2003 Hummer H2. The Dulles, Va., company is also looking to collect $500,000 in gold bars from another defendant, who remains on the lam, AOL spokesman Nicholas J. Graham said.

"He's the next stop on our spammer treasure map," Graham said.

Tens of thousands of dollars of high-end computer equipment also collected as part of the settlement will be donated to public schools and school systems in northern Virginia, where AOL is based.

The Hummer and $85,000 in gold bars and cash will be offered as a grand prize in the AOL Spammer's Gold Sweepstakes, which started accepting entries on Wednesday. During the contest, which runs from Aug. 10 to Aug. 19, AOL also plans to have a daily drawing for $1,000 in cash.

The gold bullion is comprised of 33 gold bars each weighing an ounce, and nine gold coins. The gold is valued at $20,000.

The spam suit filed named as defendants Braden M. Bournival, Davis Wolfgang Hawke, the company Amazing Internet Products LLC, and numerous unnamed co-conspirators. A source familiar with the matter said AOL settled with Bournival, but Hawke's whereabouts was unknown.

AOL is not the first in the industry to reach legal settlements with spammers. Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday said Scott Richter, once accused of being one of the world's top spammers, and his company OptInRealBig.com of Westminster, Colo., agreed to pay $7 million to settle a lawsuit filed in December 2003.

AOL also said on Wednesday that it has reduced spam on its network by an average of 60 percent to 70 percent, based on referrals from AOL members. When finding spam in their email boxes, AOL members can click on a "report spam" button to remove it and register it with AOL's spam filter.

Those referrals have fallen to between 3 million and 4 million a day from about 10 million in the summer of 2004, Graham said. At the peak in the fall of 2003, AOL was receiving as many as 20 million referrals in a day.

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