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Ex-EBay Workers Plead Guilty to Cyberstalking Campaign Roles

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 10/8/2020 Janelle Lawrence
logo: EBay Inc. signage is displayed at the entrance to the company's headquarters in San Jose, California. © Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg EBay Inc. signage is displayed at the entrance to the company's headquarters in San Jose, California.

(Bloomberg) -- Two former eBay Inc. security employees admitted they participated last year in a bizarre harassment campaign against a suburban Boston blogger who angered top executives with posts critical of the company.

Ex-eBay manager Stephanie Popp, 33, and contract analyst Veronica Zea, 26, pleaded guilty Thursday in Boston federal court to conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges for their role in a scheme that involved anonymously sending live cockroaches, a bloody-pig mask and a funeral wreath to the victim’ s home.

Prosecutors said at the hearing before U.S. District Judge William Young that they had agreed to recommend a sentence of 41 months in prison for Popp and 30 months for Zea. Young set a Feb. 25 sentencing date.

Three additional former eBay employees are scheduled to plead guilty later this month. Former security director James Baugh and global resiliency director David Harville, who prosecutors say led the campaign, were also arrested but have yet to enter any plea.

According to prosecutors, the campaign began after the Natick, Massachusetts-based blogger criticized former Chief Executive Officer Devin Wenig for mishandling the e-commerce giant’s online sellers in an August 2019 post. “If you are ever going to take her down… now is the time,” Wenig said in a subsequent text to Steven Wymer, the company’s then communications chief.

Neither Wenig or Wymer have been charged, and both executives deny involvement in the campaign. Prosecutors say Wymer relayed the CEO’s complaints to Baugh who replied that he had a plan that would take two weeks.

Read More: Ex-EBay CEO’s Texts Triggered Scare Campaign With Cockroaches

Attorneys for Popp and Zea declined to comment. In an interview in June, Zea’s attorney portrayed her as a recent college graduate who naively followed the orders of her superiors in a toxic work environment.

Popp used an anonymous Twitter account to taunt the victim over the harassing deliveries, asking if she had received the “gifts,” according to the government. The blogger’s address was also posted on Craigslist in ads promising a raucous block party with free beverages. Another ad offered her address as the home of a married couple seeking sex partners. Strangers showed up in response to yard-sale ads, prosecutors said.

Based in San Jose, California, Popp and Zea also flew at separate times to Massachusetts to help Baugh and Harville conduct surveillance of the victim’s home. The men tried to place a GPS tracker on the victim’s car but found it locked in the garage, the government says. The group was arrested in part because the victim’s husband captured a picture of the SUV rented by Zea, and local police were able to connect her to eBay.

Popp and Zea also admitted participating in the “White Knight Strategy,” a plan to misdirect police investigating the harassment campaign by offering eBay’s assistance to the victim and providing a list of possible suspects identified by company security.

(Updates with sentencing date in third paragraph)

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