Six former employees of eBay have been charged with cyberstalking for allegedly waging a harassment campaign against a Natick, Massachusetts couple behind an online newsletter that criticized the e-commerce company.
In a news conference, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said Monday the former employees sent menacing packages to the couple's home -- including a bloody pig mask -- to deter them from writing critically about the San Jose, California-based company.
Lelling said eBay executives were "enraged" by the coverage of the company on the couple's website. One allegedly said he wanted to "crush this lady," referring to the woman in the couple that ran the site.
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Lelling called it a "systematic campaign fueled by the resources of a Fortune 500 company to emotionally and psychologically terrorize this middle-aged couple."
The employees allegedly involved in the scheme were James Baugh, eBay’s former Senior Director of Safety and Security; Stephanie Popp, a senior manager of global intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, an intelligence analyst; Veronica Zea, a contractor; Brian Gilbert, a senior manager of special operations; and David Harville, former director of global resiliency.
Harville was arrested Monday morning in New York. Baugh was being sought by federal prosecutors in California.
All six are being charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with an investigation.
Gilbert is a former police captain with the Santa Clara, California police department, according to Lelling.
Beginning in August of last year, Baugh allegedly directed the employees to set up anonymous email and phone accounts and use them to send the couple disturbing packages, paid for with pre-paid debit cards.
The couple also allegedly received threatening letters online and were allegedly surveilled in the Boston area.
The packages sent to the couple's home included fly larvae, spiders, a box of live cockroaches, a sympathy wreath on the occasion of the death of a loved one, a book of advice on how to survive the death of a spouse and pornography sent to neighbors under the couple's names, Lelling said.
Other packages included a Halloween mask featuring the face of a bloody pig. A bloody pig fetus was ordered, but never sent due to questions from the supplier, Lelling added.
"This was a determined, systematic effort by senior employees of a major company to destroy the lives of a couple in Natick, all because they published content the company executives didn't like.
"For a while they succeeded, psychologically devastating these people for weeks, as they desperately tried to figure out what was going on and stop it."
Popp, the senior manager of global intelligence, was allegedly ordered to set up social media accounts, through which threats were send to the couple. The profanity-laced messages took credit for the deliveries, and were crafted to appear as if written by eBay users who disaproved of the couple's website, Lelling said.
One message, sent after the pig mask was sent, read, "Do I have your attention, now?" according to court documents.
On August 18, the defendants allegedly posted a classified ad on Craigslist, purportedly from the couple, inviting "singles, couples and swingers" to their house to party each night, Lelling said. People were invited to knock on the couple's door.
Baugh, Harville and others are accused of flying to Boston from California to surveil the couple at their home and around Natick. This allegedly included an attempt to break into the couple's garage to install a GPS system on a car.
The couple were followed in rental cars, according to Lelling.
According to court documents, Baugh allegedly waged a campaign to manipulate the couple into thinking eBay was attempting to help them stop the harassment. Gilbert, the manager of special operations, allegedly called the couple seeking help to investigate the harassment.
The defendants are also accused of deleting digital evidence and plotting to fabricate documents to throw investigators off the trail, Lelling's office said.
"eBay does not tolerate this kind of behavior," the company said in a statement. "eBay holds its employees to high standards of conduct and ethics and will continue to take appropriate action to ensure these standards are followed."
The company said it launched an investigation with the help of an outside law firm after being notified in 2019 of "suspicious actions by its security personnel toward a blogger."
The company said it fired all involved employees as a result of the investigation, "including the Company’s former Chief Communications Officer, in September 2019."
The investigation also looked at then-CEO Devin Wenig, who left the company in 2018.
The investigation found no evidence Wenig "knew in advance about or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband," the company wrote, adding "there were a number of considerations leading to his departure" from the company.
The charges of cyberstalking and tampering each carry a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution.