Six former eBay employees sought to “take down’” the editor and publisher of a newsletter about the famous online auction site in a wild cyberstalking campaign that saw the accused send a preserved fetal pig, a bloodied pig halloween mask and a funeral wreath to their targets, according to a Justice Department indictment unsealed Monday.
Other items sent in the post included a box of live cockroaches, a book on surviving the loss of a spouse and pornography, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts alleged. The targets were a couple whose newsletter repeatedly peeved higher-ups at eBay, so much so that in August 2019, executives asked the company’s security team to do something about the couple, prosecutors claimed. That something was an extraordinary harassment and surveillance campaign, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors alleged their plan was to eventually have Brian Gilbert, the 51-year-old former senior manager of special operations for eBay’s Global Security Team and a former Santa Clara police captain, approach the victims with an offer to help stop the harassment. The hope was they could convince the newsletter editors to write kinder words about eBay and identify individuals making anonymous comments underneath stories, the government said.
They even went to the victims’ home and planned to break into the victims’ garage and install a GPS tracking device on their car before the targets noticed the eBay employees’ surveillance and called the police, the indictment read.
Other than Gilbert, the ex-eBay staff facing criminal charges includes: James Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security; David Harville, eBay’s former director of global resiliency; Stephanie Popp, eBay’s former senior manager of global intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center (GIC); and Veronica Zea, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in the GIC.
They’re now facing prison and fines, if convicted.
EBay posted an extensive response on the allegations online. After learning of the allegations, it set up an independent special committee formed by eBay’s Board of Directors to investigate the matter. All employees involved were subsequently let go.
It also said that it investigated whether the Company’s CEO at the time of the incident, Devin Wenig, had any hand in the alleged stalking. “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.”
The company added: “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.
“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.”