By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – Six former eBay Inc employees have been criminally charged with cyberstalking a Massachusetts couple who published an online newsletter viewed as critical of the e-commerce company, federal prosecutors in Boston said on Monday.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said the defendants engaged in a “determined, systematic effort” to emotionally “terrorize” the couple with anonymous email threats, and deliveries such as live cockroaches, a bloody Halloween pig mask, a funeral wreath, and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse.
The defendants include eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, James Baugh, 45, of San Jose, California, and former director of global resiliency David Harville, 48, of New York.
Prosecutors charged all six defendants with conspiring to commit cyberstalking and tamper with witnesses.
EBay terminated the defendants’ employment last September, cooperated with prosecutors, and apologized to the couple.
Lawyers for Baugh and Harville did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The other defendants, including three former managers, live near eBay’s San Jose headquarters.
The alleged victims lived in Natick, Massachusetts, and were the editor and publisher of an online newsletter covering e-commerce companies such as eBay.
Prosecutors said that in one instance, the husband was told by email last Aug. 10 to expect the delivery of a pig fetus, and that after receiving the pig mask his wife got a follow-up email asking: “DO I HAVE UR ATTENTION NOW????”
At a news conference, Lelling called the alleged harassment an attempt from “pretty high up the chain” to “weaponize the internet” to protect eBay’s brand.
“This case struck us as something unique,” he said.
EBay said its own probe found that while former Chief Executive Devin Wenig, who stepped down last September, had made “inappropriate” communications, there was no evidence he had advance knowledge of or authorized actions against the couple.
Efforts to reach Wenig for comment were unsuccessful. He told the Financial Times he had known nothing about the alleged harassment.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)