SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Six former eBay employees, five of them from the Bay Area, are facing federal charges in connection with leading a cyberstalking campaign targeting a middle-aged Massachusetts couple whose newsletter was critical of eBay.
The cyberstalking campaign allegedly began in August of 2019.
Federal prosecutors say the now former eBay employees emotionally and psychologically terrorized a Massachusetts couple whose newsletter was critical of eBay.
The complaint says San Jose resident James Baugh, eBay's former Senior Director of Safety and Security directed others to set up fake email and cell phone accounts to harass the couple. The employees are also accused of sending disturbing deliveries.
"These deliveries included fly larvae and live 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, pornography mailed to the next door neighbors but in the couple's names, a Halloween mask featuring the face of a blood pig and a pig fetus which was ordered but after an inquiry by the supplier thankfully was never sent," said Andrew Lelling, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
One of the alleged co-conspirators was Brian Gilbert of San Jose, a former Senior Manager of Special Operations for eBay's Global Security Team.
"Who notably is a former police captain with the Santa Clara California Police Department," said Lelling.
According to the complaint, Baugh and others flew from California to Massachusetts to conduct surveillance on the couple.
"At one point when several of the defendants feared that the Natick police might trace the harassment campaign back to California - they compiled a list of people living in the Santa Clara area who they might be able to frame for the harassment activity if needed," said Lelling.
The former eBay employees are facing conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with an investigation.
Other defendants charged include David Harville of New York City, eBay's former Director of Global Resiliency; Stephanie Popp of San Jose, eBay's former Senior Manager of Global Intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell of Redwood City, former manager of eBay's Global Intelligence Center and Veronica Zea of San Jose, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in the GIC.
Zea's attorney issued the following statement:
"In my view Veronica Zea is a victim in this matter. When she was employed as a contract employee with eBay she was two years out of college - this was her first full-time job post college. Veronica followed the lead and direction of her superior and mentor, the Director of Security for eBay, and others more senior than herself at every step of the way in the events which have now led to her criminal prosecution. The threat posed to eBay by the Steiner's website was communicated to Veronica as a real and substantial threat that warranted the steps being taken to compel the Steiners to take down the site or, at least, remove the threatening posts. Veronica was a naive and vulnerable young woman who simply did as she was directed. Without in any way diminishing the concern the Steiners must have felt, I can assure you that Veronica's life has been turned upside down by her employment with eBay and her involvement with the events referred to in the Information. Veronica is devastated psychologically and emotionally; it is going to take a long time, if ever, for her to recover."
eBay issued the following statement:
eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) today commented on indictments separately announced by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts against several former eBay employees. Neither the Company nor any current eBay employee was indicted. In order to preserve the integrity of the government's investigation, eBay did not previously communicate about this matter. In light of today's public announcement by the government, eBay is now addressing this matter publicly.
eBay was notified by law enforcement in August 2019 of suspicious actions by its security personnel toward a blogger, who writes about the Company, and her husband.
eBay immediately launched a comprehensive investigation, which was conducted with the assistance of outside legal counsel, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
As a result of the investigation, eBay terminated all involved employees, including the Company's former Chief Communications Officer, in September 2019.
The independent special committee formed by eBay's Board of Directors to oversee the Company's investigation into this matter said, "eBay took these allegations very seriously from the outset. Upon learning of them, eBay moved quickly to investigate thoroughly and take appropriate action. The Company cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities throughout the process. eBay does not tolerate this kind of behavior. eBay apologizes to the affected individuals and is sorry that they were subjected to this. 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 noted that the internal investigation also examined what role, if any, the Company's CEO at the time of the incident, Devin Wenig, may have had in this matter.
The internal investigation found that, while Mr. Wenig's communications were inappropriate, there was no evidence that he knew in advance about 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.