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Former eBay employees allegedly responded to negative press by mailing writers cockroaches, pig fetuses

One way for a corporation to deal with critical press is by addressing the issue head on, either by acknowledging its own failures and dealing with them or by refuting claims that it believes to be inaccurate. Another way is to stalk the publishers and send them deliveries of live cockroaches and pig fetuses in order to scare the outlet into abandoning negative coverage. Six former eBay employees allegedly chose to go with the latter approach, and now face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000, according to the US Department of Justice and US Attorney's Office in Massachusetts.

On Tuesday, James Baugh, the former senior director of safety and security at eBay, and David Harville, the company’s former director of global resiliency, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Four other eBay employees have also been charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. They include Stephanie Popp, eBay’s former senior manager of global intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, the former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center (GIC); Veronica Zea, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst for the GIC; and Brian Gilbert, a former senior manager of special operations for eBay’s Global Security Team.

According to the DOJ, the six former employees carried out an extended harassment campaign on a husband and wife team who publish an online newsletter covering e-commerce companies. The couple and their publication are not identified by the charging documents, but their coverage was apparently critical of eBay. Starting in April of 2019, eBay employees started plotting to "crush" the reporter and "take them down." Messages discovered by the FBI indicated they intended to target other publications, including the Wall Street Journal, after attacking the unnamed reporter.

Investigators say that the plot to intimidate the husband and wife team started with anonymous messages and packages sent to their home. The eBay employees allegedly sent a preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask, a box of cockroaches, and pornography (the last package was sent to the couple’s neighbors). Other packages included a funeral wreath and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse. The members of eBay's security team allegedly followed up these deliveries with an online harassment campaign that included creating anonymous Twitter accounts that sent critical and threatening messages to the newsletter operators. The accounts eventually doxed the pair, publishing their home address online. Finally, the eBay team allegedly carried out a surveillance campaign on the victims, sitting outside their home at times to monitor activity and installing a GPS tracking device on their car. They even allegedly created false documents accusing the couple of being "persons of interest" for making threats against eBay executives as cover in case they were questioned by law enforcement while staking out the house.

The threats and harassment were enough for the husband and wife to eventually contact local law enforcement, who identified potential ties to eBay. Once being made aware of the situation, eBay investigated the employees involved and fired them in September 2019. Devin Wenig, the CEO of the company at the time, also left that same month but has not been implicated in the criminal campaign — though he did partake in disparaging and attacking the newsletter in company communications.

"The Company cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities throughout the process," eBay said in a statement. "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.”