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6 former eBay executives charged in harassment of newsletter authors

6 former eBay executives charged in harassment of newsletter authors


6 former eBay executives charged in harassment of newsletter authors

Norman Miller
MetroWest Daily NewsPublished 6:50 PM EDT Jun 15, 2020Executives of eBay are accused of an “extensive” campaign of harassment against a Natick, Massachusetts, couple who wrote and published an online newsletter critical of the online auction site.Officials mailed the couple boxes full of live cockroaches, spiders, a pig fetus, books about surviving the death of a spouse and other items, Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said at a news conference Monday.Six former eBay employees are charged, including James Baugh, former senior director of safety and security, and David Harville, eBay’s former director of global security and resiliency.“The victims were targeted because eBay executives were unhappy with the coverage by this couple’s newsletter,” Lelling said.Lelling said an eBay executive told Baugh he wanted to “crush” those responsible for the newsletter, and another executive told Baugh to “take her down.” What took place was an “extensive and disturbing campaign of harassment” against the couple, which began Aug. 1, 2019, according to Lelling.Federal authorities arrested Harville on Monday. They are looking for Baugh. Both men are charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to commit witness tampering.Also charged, but not arrested, were Stephanie Popp, 32, of San Jose, California, eBay’s former senior manager of global intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, 26, of Redwood City, California, the former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center (GIC); Veronica Zea, 26, of San Jose, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in the GIC; and Brian Gilbert, 51, of San Jose, a former senior manager of special operations for eBay’s Global Security Team. They are each charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and will appear in federal court in Boston.Extensive campaign of harassmentSeveral other eBay employees, allegedly under the direction of Baugh and Harville, created fake email and social media accounts. They allegedly emailed and tweeted harassing and threatening messages. They allegedly sent items to the couple’s home and mailed pornography to a neighbor’s home but put the couple’s name on it.Also among the accusations: They sent pizza to the couple’s home at 4:30 a.m. and advertised a fake yard sale that told people to go into the house if no one was outside.Lelling said four of the six people charged flew from California to Massachusetts to put the couple under surveillance. They attempted to break into the couple’s garage to put a GPS on their vehicle, so they could track them, Lelling said.“Their goal was to cause this couple so much distress, it would cause them to stop printing their newsletter,” FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta said.Gilbert, a former police captain, contacted the couple, promising to help them. The goal with the “white knight strategy” was to make the couple believe eBay was helping them, so they would write positive articles, Bonavolonta said.The couple reported the harassment to the Natick Police Department. Police Chief James Hicks said it was the tenacity of his detectives that determined the problem was bigger than it looked.Coronavirus price gouging: 33 top cops demand action from Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, Facebook and WalmartUnemployed because of coronavirus? How to make money from home right awaySupreme and Oreo paired up for a special cookie: They’re reselling on eBay for thousands“This case … it could have easily been dismissed as a routine harassment case,” Hicks said.Police contacted eBay, and Harville met with them, expressing concern.Authorities did not identify the couple, nor the website for their newsletter. They would not say whether the couple still publishes the newsletter.eBay respondsIn a written statement about an hour after Lelling’s news conference, eBay said it didn’t release information publicly “to preserve the integrity of the government’s investigation.”“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,” the statement said.Outside legal counsel, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, assisted in the investigation.“As a result of the investigation, eBay terminated all involved employees, including the Company’s former Chief Communications Officer, in September 2019,” the statement said.“The Company cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities throughout the process,” according to a statement from a special committee formed by eBay’s Board of Directors to oversee the company’s investigation. “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.”According to the internal investigation, “there was no evidence” that Devin Wenig, the CEO at the time of the harassment, “knew in advance about or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband.”Wenig stepped down in September. He said at the time that he was stepping down over differences with the board of directors and the company didn’t clarify Monday whether this investigation played a role in his departure.

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