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Two former eBay execs receive prison terms for cyberstalking

U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling announces charges of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and witness tampering against six former eBay executives in June 2020. Photo by CJ Gunther/EPA-EFE
U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling announces charges of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and witness tampering against six former eBay executives in June 2020. Photo by CJ Gunther/EPA-EFE

Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Two former eBay executives received federal prison sentences this week for their roles in an extensive cyberstalking campaign that targeted a Massachusetts couple who had published critical reviews about the e-commerce giant.

The harassment made the couple's lives "a living hell," and went as far as spiders, cockroaches and a funeral wreath being sent to their home to bully them, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Patti Saris before sentencing.

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For his role, James Baugh, eBay's former senior director of safety and security, will serve nearly five years behind bars, while David Harville, eBay's former director of global resiliency, will serve two years.

The defendants were also ordered to pay $60,000 in fines between them.

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Baugh, Harville and five other eBay employees have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other stalking-related charges for harassing Ina and David Steiner, the publishers of the eCommerceBytes -- a website that sellers have come to trust for insights about online merchants.

Prosecutors said the stalking began in August 2019 after eBay's front office became aware of a scathing story about the company on the site, which reportedly angered then-CEO Devin Wenig. The story reportedly examined an eBay lawsuit that accused Amazon of siphoning off its sellers.

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It ultimately grew into a "three-part harassment campaign," that included threats on social media and "disturbing deliveries" to the couple's home in Boston.

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More unsettling items showed up on the Steiner's doorstep, including a pig mask covered in blood and a book on surviving the death of a spouse.

Baugh, Harville and other members of the executive team also flew from California to Boston to keep an eye on the Steiners.

They planned to place a GPS tracker on the couple's vehicle, which led Harville to purchase burglary tools to get inside the couple's garage.

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The men also used prepaid debit cards, clever disguises and overseas email accounts to hide their paper trail, according to court records.

"The defendants' toxic brand of online and real-world harassment, threats, and stalking was outrageous, cruel and defies any explanation -- all the more because these men were seasoned and highly paid security executives backed by the resources of a Fortune 500 corporation," U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said in the statement. "Their behavior was reprehensible."

In June 2020, U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling announced criminal indictments against the former eBay executives.

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Wenig, eBay's former CEO, resigned from the company in 2019 but so far has avoided any criminal charges in the case.

A spokesperson for Wenig told CNBC that an independent investigation had already determined the CEO was unaware of the scheme and that he "never told anyone to do anything unethical or illegal and if he had known about it, he would have stopped it."

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