Six former eBay employees allegedly started a cyberstalking campaign and sent boxes of live cockroaches and a Halloween mask of a bloody pig's face to a couple who ran an online e-commerce newsletter, according to charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday.
The alleged harassment also included sending the couple anonymous, threatening messages and covert surveillance of the victims.
James Baugh, 45, of San Jose, California, eBay’s former Senior Director of Safety & Security, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.
David Harville, 48, of New York City, eBay’s former Director of Global Resiliency, was arrested in New York City on the same charges and will make an initial appearance via videoconference in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.
In addition, the following defendants were charged: 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, California, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in the GIC; and Brian Gilbert, 51, of San Jose, California, 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 make appearances in federal court in Boston at a later date.
The victims ran a story in their newsletter that outlined litigation involving eBay back in August 2019 and in response, two members of eBay’s executive leadership team allegedly sent or forwarded text messages suggesting that it was time to “take down” the newsletter’s editor, the DOJ stated in a news release.
In response, Baugh, Harville, Popp, Gilbert, Zea, Stockwell, and others allegedly executed a three-part harassment campaign. Among other things, several of the defendants ordered anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home, including a book on surviving the loss of a spouse and pornography – the last of these addressed to the newsletter’s publisher but sent to his neighbors’ homes.
As part of the second phase of the campaign, some of the former eBay employees allegedly sent private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content and threatening to visit the victims in Natick. Baugh, Gilbert, Popp and another eBay security employee allegedly planned the messages to become increasingly disturbing, culminating with “doxing” the victims (i.e., publishing their home address), according to the news release.
It is alleged that the same group of former eBay employees intended to have Gilbert, a former Santa Clara police captain, approach the victims with an offer to help stop the harassment that the defendants were secretly causing, in an effort to promote good will toward eBay, generate more favorable coverage in the newsletter and identify the individuals behind the anonymous comments.
And in the third phase, Harville and Zea registered for a software development conference to explain their trip to Boston on Aug. 15, 2019. Baugh, Harville, and Zea (and later Popp) then allegedly drove to the victims’ home in Natick several times to surveil the couple, the news release said.
Harville and Baugh allegedly intended to at one point break into the victims’ garage and install a GPS tracking device on their car.
And in the event they were stopped by police while attempting to carry out the third phase, Baugh and Harville allegedly carried false documents purporting to show that they were investigating the victims as “persons of interest” who had threatened eBay executives.
The victims noticed the surveillance and notified local law enforcement. Zea had rented one of the cars used by the former eBay employees, after which the police reached out to eBay for assistance.
Aware that they were now being investigated by police, the the culprits allegedly sought to interfere with the investigation by lying to the police about eBay’s involvement while pretending to offer the company’s assistance with the harassment, as well as by lying to eBay’s lawyers about their involvement, the news released states.
It was also revealed that Baugh, Gilbert, Popp, and Stockwell allegedly plotted to fabricate another eBay “person of interest” document that could be offered to the police as a lead on some of the harassing deliveries. As the police and eBay’s lawyers continued to investigate, the defendants allegedly deleted digital evidence that showed their involvement, further obstructing what had by then become a federal investigation.
The charges of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses each carry a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution.