Feds: eBay staff sent spiders, roaches to harass couple
Six former eBay Inc. employees were accused of waging an extensive campaign to terrorize and intimidate the publisher and publisher of an online newsletter with threats and intrusive home deliveries, including live spiders and cockroaches, the federal authorities said on Monday.
Executives were annoyed by the news coverage of the newsletter, and their employees set out to ruin the life of the couple who ran the website. They sent home a funeral wreath, a bloody Halloween mask with a pig's face, and other alarming items, the authorities said. The employees also sent pornographic magazines with the man's name to their neighbour's house and were planning to break into the couple's garage to install a GPS device on their car.
“This was a determined, systematic effort by senior executives from a large company to destroy a couple's life in Natick for posting content that company executives disliked. For a while, they managed to psychologically destroy these victims for weeks when they desperately tried to figure out what was going on and stop it, ”Andrew Lelling, a US attorney in Massachusetts, told reporters.
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James Baugh of San Jose, California, Senior Director of Safety & Security on eBay, and David Harville of New York City, Director of Global Resiliency on eBay, are charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to manipulate witnesses. The other former eBay employees are Stephanie Popp, former senior manager for global intelligence; Brian Gilbert, former senior manager for special operations on eBay's Global Security Team; Stephanie Stockwell, former manager of eBay's Global Intelligence Center; and Veronica Zea, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst at the Global Intelligence Center.
No lawyers were listed for her in court documents.
Court documents detail how two members of the company's leadership team staged a conspiracy for the couple after the newsletter published an article in August 2019 about an eBay-filed lawsuit accusing Amazon of poaching its sellers. The article also discussed an executive that, according to court documents, is only referred to as "Executive 1" in court documents.
Half an hour after the article was published, “Executive 1” wrote another executive identified as “Executive 2”: “(Victim 1) is out with a hot piece about the lawsuit. If you ever want to get them done ... now is the time, "court records said.
An online article with the same heading as that described in court documents shows the person named “Executive 1” as CEO of eBay, who was then Devin Wenig.
Little resigned in September and is not charged in the case. On Monday, a person who replied on a phone number provided for Little said "we're not interested" before hanging up.
In addition to the disruptive deliveries, employees set up fake social media accounts to send drone messages to the couple, the authorities said. After the bloody pig mask was delivered, the publisher received a message that read, "I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW ????" They also posted the couple's names and addresses online, promoted things like yard sales, and encouraged strangers to knock on the door when they weren't outside.
The authorities said the employees lied to the police about eBay's involvement in the cyberstalking campaign and lied to the company's lawyers about their role. Gilbert, a former police captain in Santa Clara, California, even turned to the couple to offer help to end the harassment, the authorities said.
"They hoped that this" white knight strategy "would create goodwill for the company, lead to cheaper items, and would please eBay management," said Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent for the Boston FBI office.
An internal investigation was opened after law enforcement officers informed eBay in August of "suspicious conduct by its security personnel," company officials wrote in a prepared statement. The company was laid off in September, the company said.
Little said at the time that he would step down due to differences with the board of directors and the company failed to clarify on Monday whether this investigation played a role in his departure.
The investigation committee, formed by the company's board of directors, said eBay had "taken these allegations very seriously from the start."
"When eBay found out, things went quickly to do thorough research and take appropriate action," it said.
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