AOL Gives Away Spammer's Loot

In its own twist on letting the punishment fit the crime, America Online is disciplining a spammer who helped the company win an antispam lawsuit by giving away a substantial stash of loot purchased with profits from his illegal business.

Calling the giveaway the AOL Spammer's Gold Sweepstakes, which runs through August 19, AOL will award nearly $100,000 in cash and gold bars, as well as a loaded 2003 Hummer H2 vehicle, to its members and others who participate in the giveaway. The prizes are part of assets recovered from Manchester, New Hamsphire-based spammer Braden Bournival in the first lawsuit AOL filed under the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, according to the company. AOL also was awarded a $13 million judgment in the suit.

AOL members aided in the search for spammers named in the suit by using a "Report Spam" button to help AOL and detectives find those responsible, according to the company. The sweepstakes is a way for AOL to show its appreciation for that help, the company says in a statement.

"To say 'thank you' to AOL members for their help in tracking down this lawbreaker, AOL is giving these ill-gotten goods away to members through the AOL Spammer's Gold Sweepstakes," the company says.

AOL members can enter the sweepstakes at AOL Keyword: Spam Sweepstakes; non-members can enter at aolhummer.onlinepromo.com. Entrants can win daily cash prizes as well as the Hummer and about $85,000 in gold bars and cash.

Though the spammer whose former property is being given away aided AOL in its quest to identify other spammers involved in the case, the company says it still felt he needed to be punished.

"The spammer's cooperation, while helpful, didn't absolve him from paying for the harm he caused AOL members, and under CAN-SPAM, AOL was able to seize everything the spammer made during his 'career,'" AOL says.

AOL also had an ominous "don't even think about it" message for other would-be spammers who may be interested in plaguing AOL users' in-boxes with unwanted e-mail.

"[This sweepstakes] also serves as a message to anyone thinking of making a living sending spam to AOL members: AOL will find you and sue you," the company wrote on its site. "And AOL will do everything it can to make sure its members end up with any money you made as a spammer."

Earlier this week, Microsoft also won a big settlement in an antispam lawsuit filed two years ago against the self-proclaimed "King of Spam," Scott Richter.

On Tuesday, Richter, who at one time helped distribute more than 38 billion unsolicited e-mails per year, agreed to pay $7 million to the software giant. He also said he would not send any more unsolicited e-mails.