First Amendment

eBAY’s Campaign of Terror, Stalking and Harassment Ends Up with Criminal Convictions

Mr. Baugh and Mr. Harville used the internet’s power to harass and intimidate a couple who did nothing—nothing—other than publish content.

Former eBay Employee Sentenced for Aggressive Cyberstalking Campaign

Thursday, November 3, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAR 3, 2023

BOSTON – A former intelligence analyst for eBay, Inc. was sentenced today for her role in a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.

Veronica Zea, 28, of San Jose, Calif., a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in eBay’s Global Intelligence Center (GIC), was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge William G. Young to two years’ probation with her first year to be served in home confinement and a $5,000 fine. In October 2020, Zea pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.

On Sept. 29, 2022, co-conspirator James Baugh was sentenced to 57 months in prison, two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a fine of $40,000. Also on Sept. 29, 2022, co-conspirator David Harville was sentenced to two years in prison, two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a fine of $20,000. Co-conspirators and former eBay employees Philip Cooke, Stephanie Popp, Stephanie Stockwell and Brian Gilbert previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy to cyberstalk the victims. Cooke was sentenced in July 2021 to 18 months in prison. On Oct. 11, 2022, Popp was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and Stockwell was sentenced to two years of probation with a year of home confinement. Gilbert is awaiting sentencing.

Between approximately Aug. 5, 2019 and Sept. 6, 2019, Zea and her co-conspirators at eBay agreed to engage in a harassment campaign targeting a husband and wife in Natick, Mass. for their roles in publishing a newsletter that reported on issues of interest to eBay sellers. Senior executives at eBay were frustrated with the newsletter’s tone and content as well as the substance of comments posted beneath the newsletter’s articles. The harassment campaign arose from communications between those senior executives and Baugh, who was eBay’s senior security employee.

Zea and her co-conspirators executed a three-part harassment campaign intended to intimidate the victims and to influence their reporting about eBay. The campaign included sending anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home; sending private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content; threats to visit the victims in Natick; and traveling to Natick to surveil the victims and installing a GPS tracking device on their car.

Among other things, several of the defendants ordered anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home, including a preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask, a funeral wreath, a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, and pornography addressed to the victims but delivered to their neighbor’s homes. Zea used cash to purchase prepaid debit cards for use in the campaign and ordered insects to the victims’ home.

As part of the second phase of the campaign, Zea’s co-conspirators sent public tweets and private threatening Twitter messages that were written as if they had been sent by eBay sellers who were unhappy with the victims’ coverage in the newsletter. Some of these messages posted the victims’ address and threatened to visit them at their home.

The third phase of the campaign involved covertly surveilling the victims in their home and community. On Aug. 15, 2019, Zea travelled from California to Natick with Baugh and Harville to surveil the victims and to install a GPS tracking device on the victims’ car. Zea and Harville registered for a software development conference to explain the trip to Boston. The victims spotted the surveillance team and contacted local police. At Baugh’s direction, Zea also lied to an eBay investigator who was responding to the Natick Police’s request for assistance.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division; and Natick Police Chief James G. Hicks made the announcement today. eBay provided valuable assistance and cooperation with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth B. Kosto, Deputy Chief of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.

Two Former eBay Executives Sentenced to Prison for Cyberstalking

Thursday, September 29, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAR 3, 2023

BOSTON – The former Senior Director of Safety & Security at eBay, Inc. and the company’s former Director of Global Resiliency were sentenced to prison today for their roles in a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.

James Baugh, 47, of San Jose, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Patti B.  Saris to 57 months in prison and two years of supervised release. Baugh was also ordered to pay a fine of $40,000. David Harville, 50, of Las Vegas, Nev., was sentenced to two years in prison and two years of supervised release. Harville was also ordered to pay a fine of $20,000. On April 25, 2022, Baugh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit stalking through interstate travel and through facilities of interstate commerce, two counts of stalking through interstate travel, two counts of stalking through facilities of interstate commerce, two counts of witness tampering and two counts of destruction, alteration and falsification of records in a federal investigation.  On May 12, 2022, Harville pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit stalking through interstate travel and through facilities of interstate commerce, two counts of stalking through interstate travel and two counts of stalking through facilities of interstate commerce.

“The internet is incredibly powerful. It brings community, information, and even merchandise right to our homes. Mr. Baugh and Mr. Harville used the internet’s power to harass and intimidate a couple who did nothing—nothing—other than publish content that our First Amendment protects. 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. Their behavior was reprehensible. The just sentences the Court imposed today will take Mr. Baugh and Mr. Harville offline and out of our community for some time. This should serve as a strong reminder to all that holding positions of wealth and privilege does not absolve or shield criminals from accountability and incarceration. The government’s investigation continues,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins.

“Both men demonstrated a clear contempt for the law when they weaponized eBay’s security department to engage in an incredibly disturbing pattern of retaliatory harassment and intimidation to torment this couple, who, thankfully, did not let their fear silence them,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “While today’s sentencings cannot erase the substantial distress their victims suffered, it does make it crystal clear that anyone who goes online to threaten, intimidate, or harass others will face real-world consequences, including federal prison time.”

Harville and Baugh were arrested and charged in June 2020. Co-conspirators and former eBay employees Philip Cooke, Brian Gilbert, Stephanie Popp, Veronica Zea and Stephanie Stockwell previously pleaded guilty for their roles in a conspiracy to cyberstalk the victims. Cooke was sentenced in July 2021 to 18 months in prison. Gilbert, Popp, Zea and Stockwell are awaiting sentencing.

Between approximately Aug. 5, 2019 and Sept. 6, 2019, Harville, Baugh and their co-conspirators at eBay agreed to engage in a harassment campaign targeting a husband and wife in Natick, Mass. for their roles in publishing a newsletter that reported on issues of interest to eBay sellers. Senior executives at eBay were frustrated with the newsletter’s tone and content as well as the substance of comments posted beneath the newsletter’s articles. The harassment campaign arose from communications between those senior executives and Baugh, who was eBay’s senior security employee.

The defendants and their co-conspirators executed a three-part harassment campaign intended to intimidate the victims and to influence their reporting about eBay. The campaign included sending anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home; sending private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content; threats to visit the victims in Natick; and traveling to Natick to surveil the victims and installing a GPS tracking device on their car.

The deliveries ordered to the victims’ home included a book on surviving the death of a spouse, a bloody pig mask, a fetal pig, a funeral wreath and live insects. The harassment also featured Craigslist posts inviting members of the public to experience sexual encounters at the victims’ home.

The threatening Twitter messages were written as if they had been sent by eBay sellers who were unhappy with the victims’ coverage in the newsletter. Some of these messages posted the victims’ home address and threatened to show up at their home.

On Aug. 15, 2019, Baugh, Harville and a co-conspirator traveled from California to Natick to surveil the victims and install a GPS tracking device on the victims’ car. The victims spotted the surveillance team and contacted local police. Harville also purchased tools intending to break into the victims’ garage and lied to an eBay investigator who was responding to the Natick Police’s request for assistance.

After learning of the police’s investigation, Harville and Baugh deleted digital evidence related to the cyberstalking campaign. Additionally, Baugh made false statements to police and internal investigators and falsified records intended to throw the police off the trail.

U.S. Attorney Rollins, FBI SAC Bonavolonta and Natick Police Chief James G. Hicks made the announcement today. eBay provided valuable assistance and cooperation with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth B. Kosto, Deputy Chief of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.

Six Former eBay Employees Charged with Aggressive Cyberstalking Campaign Targeting Natick Couple

Monday, June 15, 2020 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAR 3, 2023

BOSTON – Six former employees of eBay, Inc. have been charged with leading a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company. The alleged harassment included sending the couple anonymous, threatening messages, disturbing deliveries – including a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody pig mask – and conducting covert surveillance of the victims.

James Baugh, 45, of San Jose, Calif., eBay’s former Senior Director of Safety & Security, was arrested today 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 this morning 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 in an Information unsealed today: Stephanie Popp, 32, of San Jose, eBay’s former Senior Manager of Global Intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, 26, of Redwood City, Calif., the former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center (GIC); Veronica Zea, 26, of San Jose, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in the GIC; and Brian Gilbert, 51, of San Jose, 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.

According to the charging documents, the victims of the cyberstalking campaign were a Natick couple who are the editor and publisher of an online newsletter that covers ecommerce companies, including eBay, a multinational ecommerce business that offers platforms for consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer transactions. Members of the executive leadership team at eBay followed the newsletter’s posts, often taking issue with its content and the anonymous comments underneath the editor’s stories.

It is alleged that in August 2019, after the newsletter published an article about litigation involving eBay, two members of eBay’s executive leadership team sent or forwarded text messages suggesting that it was time to “take down” the newsletter’s editor.

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 preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask, a funeral wreath, 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 defendants allegedly sent private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content and threatening to visit the victims in Natick. The documents allege that Baugh, Gilbert, Popp and another eBay security employee planned these messages to become increasingly disturbing, culminating with “doxing” the victims (i.e., publishing their home address). It is alleged that the very same group intended then 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 towards eBay, generate more favorable coverage in the newsletter, and identify the individuals behind the anonymous comments.

The third phase of the campaign allegedly involved covertly surveilling the victims in their home and community. According to the complaint, 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) allegedly drove to the victims’ home in Natick several times, with Harville and Baugh intending at one point to break into the victims’ garage and install a GPS tracking device on their car. As protection in the event they were stopped by local police, 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 spotted the surveillance, however, and notified the Natick police, who began to investigate. The police learned that Zea had rented one of the cars used by the defendants and reached out to eBay for assistance.

Aware that the police were investigating, the defendants 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. At one point, for example, 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. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Natick Chief of Police James G. Hicks made the announcement today. eBay provided valuable assistance and cooperation with the federal investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seth B. Kosto and David J. D’Addio of Lelling’s Securities, Financial and Cyber Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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eBAY’s Campaign of Terror, Stalking and Harassment Ends Up with Criminal Convictions
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