Former eBay execs sent spiders, pig fetus to couple in cyberstalking plot, feds say

Placard displays photographs of evidence, a bloody pig mask (L) and a book titled 'Surviving the Loss of a Spouse,' (R) as United States District Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling announces charges of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and witness tampering against six former eBay Inc., executives, at the John J. Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston, June 15, 2020. EPA/CJ GUNTHER

You can find almost anything on eBay — including, perhaps, a bit of petty revenge.

Six former employees at the e-commerce site have been accused of waging a disturbing revenge campaign against the married publisher and editor of an online newsletter in a bizarre case revealed in U.S. federal court on Monday.

The whole ordeal started after the couple’s newsletter criticized eBay, angering some of its executives, according to authorities. That prompted several employees to launch a cyberstalking operation against the couple, who live in Natick, Mass.

The couple received a flood of threats and bizarre deliveries as part of the intimidation campaign, including a pig fetus, a bloody pig mask, a funeral wreath and packages filled with live cockroaches and spiders, federal authorities said. The eBay staffers also sent embarrassing porn magazines to the neighbours with the husband’s name on them, shared the couple’s address online and advertised fake yard sales and other drop-in services, court documents allege.

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“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 that company executives didn’t like,” Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling told reporters.

“For a while they succeeded, psychologically devastating these victims for weeks as they desperately tried to figure out what was going on and stop it.”

In addition to sending weird deliveries, the suspects allegedly created fake social media accounts to threaten the couple, tried to plant a GPS tracker on their car, lied to police about their involvement and even offered to help with the investigation.

“They hoped this ‘white knight strategy’ would create some goodwill toward the company, result in more favourable articles and please eBay’s management,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Boston.

EBay started an internal investigation last August after authorities informed it of “suspicious actions by its security personnel,” the company said in a statement. The employees were fired in September.

James Baugh, 45, of San Jose, Calif., who was eBay’s senior director of safety and security, and David Harville, 48, of New York City, who was eBay’s director of global resiliency, are charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.

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The other ex-eBay employees charged are Stephanie Popp, former senior manager of global intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center; Veronica Zea, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in the Global Intelligence Center; and Brian Gilbert, former senior manager of special operations for eBay’s Global Security Team. Gilbert was also a former police captain in California, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Court documents also describe an individual known as “Executive 1,” who flagged the critical newsletter to another executive via text.

“(Victim 1) is out with a hot piece on the litigation. If you are ever going to take her down … now is the time,” the text said, according to court documents.

An online article that matches the description of the one mentioned in court suggests that “Executive 1” was Devin Wenig, who was eBay’s CEO at the time. The article described a lawsuit by eBay that accused Amazon of poaching its sellers.

In this file photo Devin Wenig, former CEO of eBay, looks on on the opening day of the 48th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, 23 January 2018. EPA/GIAN EHRENZELLER

Wenig left the company in September 2019, citing differences with the board of directors. He has not been charged in connection with the cyberstalking case and did not respond to requests for comment from the Associated Press.

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EBay says it looked into Wenig’s conduct as part of its internal investigation.

“The internal investigation found that, while Mr. Wenig’s communications were inappropriate, there was no evidence that he knew in advance or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband. However, as the Company previously announced, there were a number of considerations leading to his departure from the Company.”

Wenig denied any involvement in the operation in a statement to the New York Times.

“As confirmed by the company following a thorough, independent investigation, I did not direct or know anything about the acts that have been charged in Boston,” he said in the statement. “I have spent my career defending press freedoms. What these charges allege is unconscionable.”

The couple were not named in court documents.

Lawyers for Baugh and Harville did not respond to the New York Times’ request for comment.

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With files from The Associated Press

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