eBay headquarters in San Jose, California, USA
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Two former eBay executives were sentenced to prison Thursday for their involvement in a cyberbullying scheme targeting a couple behind an e-commerce blog that was perceived as critical of the company.
James Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, while eBay’s former director of global resilience, David Harville, was sentenced to two years behind bars. Both pleaded guilty to charges in the case.
Baugh, Harville and several eBay executives in 2019 created a campaign to harass Ina and David Steiner, the editor and publisher of eCommercebytes, a website widely followed by online sellers. Prosecutors said former eBay CEO Devin Wenig urged executives to go after the pair after he and other company leaders became angry about their coverage of the company.
What unfolded was a strange and complicated “three-part harassment campaign” that sought to “intimidate” the Steiners and influence their reporting about the company, prosecutors said in a statement.
EBay executives repeatedly sent harassing and threatening messages to the couple on Twitter. The campaign escalated further when the Steiners began receiving “disturbing deliveries” at their home outside Boston, including a book on surviving the death of a spouse, a bloody pig mask, a fetal pig, a crown funeral home and live insects, prosecutors said. . Additionally, Craigslist postings appeared online inviting strangers to experience sexual encounters at victims’ homes.
Baugh, Harville and others also traveled from California to the Steiners’ home to watch over the couple. They hoped to install a GPS tracker on the couples’ vehicle, but the garage was locked, so Harville bought tools to break in, according to prosecutors.
Five other eBay employees have pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the matter.
“The defendants’ toxic brand of online and real-world harassment, threats and harassment was outrageous, cruel and defies explanation, all the more so because these men were highly paid, seasoned security executives backed by the resources of a Fortune corporation 500,” US Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement. “His behavior was reprehensible.”
An eBay spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Ina Steiner did not immediately return a request for comment.
Wenig, who resigned as CEO in 2019, does not appear in the case. The Steiners have filed a separate lawsuit against eBay, Wenig and former senior vice president Steve Wymer. This case is pending.
“We believe that everyone who played a role should be held accountable,” Ina Steiner wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
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