On Monday, federal prosecutors unveiled utterly bonkers allegations against half-a-dozen now-former eBay employees that sounds equal parts entertaining and horrifying. Namely the employees are accused of waging a massive harassment campaign against a middle-aged Massachusetts couple due to critical writings that couple had made against eBay.
It's actually kind of hard to sort this all out, but keep in mind that these people had risen to the level of gainful employment while you read.
As BuzzFeed News reported, a group of executives for the company are alleged to have waged a months-long vendetta against the husband/wife due to a newsletter they were putting out that criticized their employer. This vendetta included sending the couple packages with ominous contents, harassing them online, and even busting into their garage for the purpose of placing a GPS device on their car.
When cops started to look into the couple's claims, the employees apparently tried to impede the investigation, and also put together a list of others they could frame for their alleged deeds.
"eBay executives were not merely unhappy with the couple's coverage — they were enraged," said US Attorney Andrew Lelling at a Monday press conference. "The result, as alleged in the complaint, is a systematic campaign fueled by the resources of a Fortune 500 company to emotionally and psychologically terrorize this middle-aged couple in Natick [Masschusetts] with the goal of deterring them from writing bad things online about eBay."
He went to add that "[t]his was a determined, systematic effort by senior employees of a major company to destroy the lives of a couple."
Some of the contents of the packages the execs are said to have sent to the couple included: a mask depicting a bloody pig's face, a book about how to cope with a spouse's death, porno deliberately mailed to neighbors (but attempting to embarrass the couple by using their name), and also live cockroaches and spiders.
Monday's presser was accompanied by the unveiling of a 68-page criminal complaint against the following executives: James Baugh (who was the senior director of safety and security), David Harville (who was the director of global resiliency), Stephanie Popp (who was the senior manager of global intelligence), Stephanie Stockwell (who was the manager of the company's global intelligence center), Veronica Zea (who was a contractor), and Brian Gilbert (the ex-senior manager of special operations for the company's global security team).
All those just listed have been charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking, and also conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.
Through a statement, eBay claims they were first notified of allegations (and the subsequent investigation) surrounding the six back in August 2019. They say they refrained from divulging anything to the public because it was an ongoing investigation. They further state they were cooperative with law enforcement.
In September 2019, the company says they fired all six involved. They even fired a seventh person, identified only as a former chief communications officer.
As learned in an internal investigation, the company says that the CEO at the time (Devin Wenig) had conducted "inappropriate" communications about the couple. But they added that "there was no evidence that he knew in advance about or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband."
Also in September 2019, it was announced that Wenig was leaving the company. They attributed this departure to "a number of considerations." Make of that what you will.
Prosecutors said that the couple began being harassed back in August and began after they wrote an article about a lawsuit that involved eBay.
Despite that being the impetus for the insanity, executives at the company were reported to have been angry about previous articles the couple had published in their newsletter.
A text message dating back to April 2019, and written by an unnamed executive, is reported to have said "Fuck them." It was regarding a copy of their newsletter that was forwarded to him/her, and was paired with a Wall Street Journal article. "The journal is next on the list after [the couple]," said the text.
Reports state that that same executive also texted a colleague within a leadership team by saying "take her down," in reference to the wife, after seeing another newsletter.
The couple started receiving packages that contained the aforementioned (and completely unwanted) contents, with packages sometimes coming in the middle of the night.
The eBay employees involved are also alleged to have created fake Twitter/email accounts to take the harassment campaign online. They are said to have used these accounts to criticize the newsletter, and also to threaten visits at the couples home.
Prosecutors allege that a team composed of Baugh, Gilbert, and Popp were intending to increase the severity of the online threats over time, and that their plan would ultimately see them doxxing the couple.
For example, after the bloody pig mask had been sent to them, an all-caps Twitter DM was delivered that said "DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW."
The defendants also allegedly made fake Craigslist ads that asked "singles, couples, and swingers" to come party at the couple's home every night, after 10 p.m. These ads are said to have encouraged said horny people to "knock" on the residence "day or night."
In August 2019, Harville and Zea had plans to go to the Boston area with the intent of surveilling the husband/wife. In order to disguise their actual intent to eBay, they registered for a business conference. While in the area they reportedly broke into the couple's garage and put a GPS device on their car. In preparation of this, prosecutors say they had practiced in eBay's corporate headquarters' parking lot. Their plan also included producing (and carrying) fake documents just in case they were discovered and questioned by police.
At some point the couple learned they were being followed. As a result they reached out to local police who, in turn, contacted eBay once they learned one of the vehicles involved was rented by Zea.
The defendants are said to have lied to both officers and eBay's internal lawyers about what they were doing.
Four defendants (Baugh, Gilbert, Popp, and Stockwell) are said to have discussed giving authorities a list of made up "persons of interest" to frame people with no involvement.
Lelling adds that eBay was "extremely cooperative with the investigation" once they learned of the plot.
Each employee involved faces a punishment of up to five years in prison, in addition to fines that could hit $250,000.