Former employees of the commerce giant eBay, including top executives, are set to plead guilty in a US court over an intimidation campaign against a US couple.
Prosecutors announced the plea on Wednesday after it emerged that six employees of the firm sent the journalist couple “disturbing” items such as a box of live cockroaches and a bloody pig mask after they posted negative content about the company in a newsletter.
The defendants sought to “destroy” the Natick, MA, couple in the August 2019 campaign, with text messages between two members of eBay’s executive leadership team suggesting that it was time to “take down” the newsletter’s editor.
Prosecutors named several senior employees in June this year, including 45-year-old James Baugh, a former senior director of safety and security, and 48-year-old David Harville, the firm’s former director of resiliency.
A complaint released in June indicates the two men will be charged with conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and conspiracy to commit cyber-stalking.
The documents state: “Six former employees of eBay, Inc. have been charged with leading a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.
“The alleged harassment included sending the couple anonymous, threatening messages, disturbing deliveries – including a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody pig mask – and conducting covert surveillance of the victims.”
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The campaign was allegedly carried out in three stages, the complaint says. Stage one involved the sending of disturbing items, while stage two saw several defendants sending private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content.
Stage three involved “surveilling the victims in their home and community,” with a supposed plan by Harville and Baugh to break into the couple’s garage and “install a GPS tracking device on their car”.
The complaint also named the other defendants, including Stephanie Popp, former senior manager of global intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Centre; Brian Gilbert, former senior manager of special operations for eBay’s Global Security Team; and Veronica Zea, a former eBay contractor.
eBay says it has now fired all the employees involved and opened an investigation in the event. In a statement in June, the company stated that it “does not tolerate this kind of behaviour”.
The company said: “eBay apologises to the affected individuals and is sorry that they were subjected to this.”