BOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Six eBay staff mounted a cyberstalking marketing campaign — together with sending packing containers of reside cockroaches and a Halloween masks of a bloody pig’s face — in opposition to a couple who ran a web based e-commerce publication, in line with fees filed by federal prosecutors on Monday.
Unhappy with the publication’s protection of eBay, the workers, none of whom now work on the firm, barraged the couple with threatening emails and despatched disturbing deliveries, together with a funeral wreath and a ebook on tips on how to survive the dying of a partner, stated Andrew E. Lelling, the United States legal professional for Massachusetts, in a information convention on Monday. Several of the workers drove to the couple’s house to spy on them, he stated.
“They were not merely unhappy, they were enraged,” Mr. Lelling stated, describing how one former eBay government informed a fellow government in a textual content message that he needed to “crush” the girl within the couple, who reside in Natick, Mass., a Boston suburb. The consequence, Mr. Lelling stated, “was a systematic campaign, fueled by the resources of a Fortune 500 company, to emotionally and psychologically terrorize this middle-aged couple in Natick with the goal of deterring them from writing bad things online about eBay.”
Prosecutors charged the six folks with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Among them, two former eBay officers — James Baugh, the corporate’s former senior director of security and safety, and David Harville, the corporate’s former director of world resiliency — had been arrested on Monday morning.
Also charged within the case was a former senior supervisor of particular operations for eBay’s world safety group, who’s a former police captain, in line with the criticism.
In a firm submit on Monday, eBay stated it had fired all of the concerned staff final yr, together with the corporate’s former chief communications officer. EBay additionally stated that an inside investigation had examined whether or not the corporate’s chief government on the time, Devin Wenig, had performed any position within the cyberstalking marketing campaign.
“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 statement said. It added: “However, as the company previously announced, there were a number of considerations leading to his departure” from eBay.
In a statement emailed to The New York Times, Mr. Wenig said: “As confirmed by the company following a thorough, independent investigation, I did not direct or know anything about the acts that have been charged in Boston. I have spent my career defending press freedoms. What these charges allege is unconscionable.”
Lawyers representing Mr. Baugh and Mr. Harville did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The prosecutors did not name the couple or their newsletter.
The stalking campaign began in the summer of 2019 after the newsletter published an article about a lawsuit involving eBay, prosecutors said. EBay executives followed the newsletter’s posts closely, often “taking issue with the content” as well as anonymous reader comments disparaging eBay executives as “liars” and “delusional,” the complaint said.
In response, one company executive wrote to another saying the newsletter editor was “out with a hot piece on the litigation. If you are ever going to take her down … now is the time,” according to text messages included in the complaint. The other executive responded: “Let me ask you this. Do we need to shut her entire site down?”
A few messages later, the first executive commented: “She is biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN.”
Prosecutors said the executives behind those messages — who were not named or charged in the case — pressured other employees to do something about the newsletter’s editor. The people charged in the case then began a three-pronged campaign. Several eBay employees sent “unwanted and disturbing deliveries” to the couple’s home, the complaint said, including a preserved fetal pig, fly larvae, live spiders, a sympathy funeral wreath — and pornography that was addressed to the couple by name, but sent to two of their neighbors.
The employees also sent a series of increasingly aggressive direct messages on Twitter, asking the newsletter editor what her problem was with eBay, the complaint said. The court filing said they followed up with threatening messages, culminating with publishing the couple’s home address.
As an excuse to covertly surveil the couple in the home, the complaint said, two employees also registered for a software conference in Boston in August, and, lest they were stopped by the police, went to the couple’s house carrying false documents purporting to show that they were investigating the publishers for threatening eBay executives.
The couple spotted the eBay employees spying on their house, however, and called the police, who contacted eBay for assistance.
As the police and eBay began to investigate, employees involved in the cyberstalking campaign lied to the police, as well as to eBay’s lawyers, and deleted evidence of their involvement, prosecutors said, obstructing the federal investigation.