Man found dead in B.C. believed to be U.S. 'Spam Nazi' linked to buried gold
VANCOUVER -- CTV News has learned that investigators believe the man found shot dead in a burnt-out vehicle on a Squamish logging road in 2017 is the same American man known for neo-Nazi activities online and tied to a multi-million dollar anti-spam lawsuit and the search for gold bullion.
In a news conference Thursday, B.C.'s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said they initially believed the victim found on June 14, 2017, was named Jesse James, as that was the name he went by in the local rock climbing community. However, DNA evidence linked to a missing person investigation has now confirmed the man’s true identity is actually Davis Wolfgang Hawke, IHIT said.
They are now working to confirm he's the same man who made international headlines dating back two decades.
"This is a case that's been shrouded in mystery," said IHIT spokesperson Sgt. Frank Jang. "The victim's name wasn't known until recently, and we're hoping there's somebody out there that has information about what happened to him."
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Hawke was an American citizen known to anti-racism groups as a neo-Nazi who had changed his name from Andrew Greenbaum to Hawke as he began touting white supremacist ideology online and while organizing a failed anti-government march on Washington DC in 1999.
He later became a prolific spammer, CBS News reported, with AOL winning a US$12.8-million lawsuit against him after he sent millions of unwelcome emails that experts believe earned him hundreds of thousands of dollars a month as he promoted everything from prescription drugs to pornography.
“Spam Nazi” under fire
An investigative journalist at the time, Brian McWilliams dubbed him the “spam Nazi,” and the name stuck in other publications. McWilliams ultimately wrote a book titled “Spam Kings,” with Hawke as the main character.
“A lot of people made fun of him because he had this past, which I think he sort of moved away from. But I think he continued throughout his life with a sense of white supremacy and he’s a guy who was very intelligent; he was a chess player,” said McWilliams, who had several phone conversations with Hawke and spoke with his friends and family over the course of a year. “He thought he was smarter than everybody and that’s sort of the mentality that he brought to his junk emailing. He was a conman and he figured he could convince anybody to buy anything over the internet. So he’d send this emails out, get hundreds of thousands of dollars a month from people buying the pills that he had that he’d claim were penis-enhancers when they were really some form over herbal Viagra.”
In 2006, CNN reported AOL had won a judgement authorizing them to dig on the Massachusetts property belonging to Hawke's parents in search of half a million dollars in gold and platinum bars he’d allegedly bragged of burying on the property as partial payment in the lawsuit.
"I think he probably did some spamming, I don't know that for sure but I think he probably did -- certainly nowhere near 13 million dollars," his father Hyman Greenbaum told reporters outside the family home following the AOL judgement as the company searched for his son. "He told us he was going to hide his assets and disappear."
That’s around the same time posters started circulating claiming he was missing and had last been seen March 1, 2006, near Laramie, Wyo. IHIT confirmed with CTV News the DNA evidence identifying him was linked to the missing person report filed by his parents in Massachusetts.
There’s virtually no online presence for Hawke until 2014, when the Jesse James persona appeared on social media. Then, a website for “Survivorman” Jesse James started online around 2015, with images of a man who looks like Hawke.
"I’m Jesse James, an avid vegan rock climber, adventurer, technologist, futurist, nutritionist, philosopher, writer, occasional poet, and physicist," the website says. "I am following what I call the 'Survive Diet,' the aim of which is eternal life."
That website and others associated with James have lapsed, but a book he wrote, titled, “Psychology of Seduction,” is still available on Amazon. The author biography describes him as a Canadian rock climber living in Squamish, who was a “disruptive technology pioneer” and that he “holds a theoretical physics PhD from Stanford and served as an officer in the Israeli Defense Force” while having an interest in “social and evolutionary psychology.”
McWilliams says Hawke used numerous aliases over the years. He legally changed his given name, Andrew Britt Greenbaum, when he went to college and wanted to shed his Jewish roots, McWilliams adds.
“The fact he re-invented himself doesn’t surprise me – he is that kind of a character. He changed his names with regularity, using different pseudonyms constantly, but he was always changing who he was as a person and how he was going to make money,” said McWilliams, who remarked Hawke appeared to have barely aged from the time he knew him 15 years ago to the IHIT handout photo. “It makes sense to me that he would be in B.C. doing outdoorsy things. He would do that when he lived here. He would go to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and he’d spend a lot of time hiking there. He would bring these dogs he had, which were a half-breed, half-wolf half-dog that he’d hike with and was very fond of.”
When he came to Canada and what he was doing in B.C. are questions homicide investigators hope to answer in a case they expect will attract international attention.
"This case truly is a mystery and we're hoping that somebody out there has information, now that we know who our victim is," Jang said Thursday. "When he came into Canada is one of the important questions we're trying to determine."
While there have been series of homicides with the bodies left in burnt-out cars in the last several years linked to the drug trade, Jang cautions that this case is likely an outlier. Investigators are not assuming Hawke, who was 38 when he was killed, was involved with criminal activity, Jang said, noting he was living “off the grid” during his time in Squamish.
"It is truly a mystery. It is truly a case of whodunit," Jang said. "There is a lot of information we need."
Anyone with information is asked to contact IHIT at 1-877-551-IHIT (4448), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous tips can be left through Crime Stoppers.
Rumours of buried treasure
When he was a college student he was registered as Davis Wolfgang Hawke, but he was already known by the alias “Bo Decker” in white supremacist circles, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, which ran a profile on him titled, “The Rise + Fall of the Campus Nazi.”
Years later, as he amassed an alleged fortune from his online spamming activities, Hawke would tell those around him that he didn’t trust banks – prompting the rumour that he had bullion on his parents’ property. But it went beyond that.
“There was rumours he buried a lot of money in the mountains in New Hampshire, that’s where he stashed all his money that he made,” said McWilliams. “He didn’t keep it in bank accounts, he didn’t trust banks. So that he would move out west and kind of adopt that lifestyle, that doesn’t surprise me.”
It raises the question of whether the idea of buried riches may have found its way to Jesse James, who spent so much of his time in the Mountains north of Vancouver. Could the vegan rock climber have dropped the kinds of hints that could make him a target?
Detectives are looking for a motive and want to hear from anyone in “Jesse James’s” social circle. McWilliams, who heard about Hawke’s death from CTV News, isn’t sure what to think.
“I could definitely see this guy making someone so mad at him they’d want to kill him,” McWilliams said. “He was a guy who really pushed people that way and was a crook. I mean, he was a conman. That was what he was and I can see how somebody might get mad.”
“I can also see him staging his own death or committing suicide in a fashion like that, if that’s what he chose to do. He was just a perplexing guy. I still don’t feel like I have a handle on him and I spent the better part of a year trying to figure out what made him tick.”