eBay to pay $3 million for sinister cyberstalking campaign

In 2019, seven former eBay employees harassed a couple from Massachusetts by sending live insects, a fetal pig, and a funeral wreath in retaliation for their online coverage. One of the most disturbing corporate cyberstalking campaigns is now nearing resolution after eBay agreed to pay a $3 million criminal penalty.

Cybernews already reported on disturbing acts by former eBay employees and contractors, which were intended to put Ina and David Steiner, a couple from Massachusetts, through pure hell. They tracked and harassed the victims, delivering a bloody pig Halloween mask, a funeral wreath, and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse to their home.

“eBay engaged in absolutely horrific, criminal conduct. The company’s employees and contractors involved in this campaign put the victims through pure hell, in a petrifying campaign aimed at silencing their reporting and protecting the eBay brand,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy.

In a statement, the US Department of Justice announced that eBay agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $3 million, which is the statutory maximum fine for these six felony offenses.

“eBay was charged criminally with two counts of stalking through interstate travel, two counts of stalking through electronic communications services, one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstruction of justice and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement,” the statement reads.

Fortune 500 company eBay will also be required to retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for a period of three years and to make extensive enhancements to its compliance program.

“The company’s conduct in 2019 was wrong and reprehensible,” Jamie Iannone, Chief Executive Officer at eBay, said in a statement. “From the moment eBay first learned of the 2019 events, eBay cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities. We continue to extend our deepest apologies to the Steiners for what they endured.”

Here’s what we know about the harassment campaign

eBay admitted to a detailed recitation of wrongdoings. In August 2019, Senior executives at eBay became frustrated with the tone and content of a newsletter discussing issues relevant to eBay sellers and with the comments posted beneath the newsletter’s articles.

The harassment campaign arose from communications between those executives and Jim Baugh, eBay’s former Senior Director of Safety and Security. Baugh and six other members of eBay’s security team found an original way to intimidate the newsletter’s authors to change the content of their reporting.

Baugh and his co-conspirators targeted them with a harassment campaign intended to intimidate the victims and to change the content of the newsletter’s reporting.

The campaign included sending anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home, as follows:

  • a book on surviving the death of a spouse
  • a bloody pig mask
  • a fetal pig
  • a funeral wreath
  • live insects

The conspirators also sent private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content and threatening to visit the victims in Natick.

Then they actually did travel to Natick to surveil the victims and install a GPS tracking device on their car.

The harassment also featured Craigslist posts inviting the public for sexual encounters at the victims’ home.

Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Boston Division, assured that eBay holds criminal and financial responsibility for emotionally, psychologically, and physically terrorizing the publishers.

The victims contacted the local police after spotting the surveillance team.

“After learning of the Natick Police Department’s investigation, Baugh made false statements to police and internal investigators, and he and his team deleted digital evidence related to the cyberstalking campaign and falsified records intended to throw the police off the trail,” US Department of Justice’s press release reads.

Seven individuals sentenced

The investigation led to felony convictions for seven individuals, all former eBay employees or contractors.

The ringleader, Baugh, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison in September 2022.

David Harville, former Director of Global Resiliency, was sentenced to 24 months in prison.

Philip Cooke, a former Senior Manager of Security Operations, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 12 months of home confinement.

Stephanie Popp, former Senior Manager of Global Intelligence, received a 12-month prison sentence.

Stephanie Stockwell, a former Manager of Global Intelligence, and Veronica Zea, a contract intelligence analyst, were each sentenced to one year in home confinement.

Brian Gilbert, a former Senior Manager of Security Operations, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Levy said that investigators “left no stone unturned in their mission to hold accountable every individual who turned the victims’ world upside-down through a never-ending nightmare of menacing and criminal acts.”

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