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Six former eBay employees charged in a bizarre cyberstalking scheme

Engadget logo Engadget 6/15/2020 Christine Fisher
a close up of a box: LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: A general view of as sign in the new Ebay store on December 1, 2011 in central London, England. Ebay have launched the first ever quick response code shopping emporium allowing customers to browse in store and then order online using mobile phones and tablets inside the boutique whilst it is open for the next five days. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 01: A general view of as sign in the new Ebay store on December 1, 2011 in central London, England. Ebay have launched the first ever quick response code shopping emporium allowing customers to browse in store and then order online using mobile phones and tablets inside the boutique whilst it is open for the next five days. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A handful of high-ranking former eBay staff allegedly carried out a bizarre cyberstalking campaign that involved sending a preserved fetal pig, bloody pig Halloween mask, funeral wreath, book on surviving the loss of a spouse and pornography to a couple who ran a newsletter that eBay viewed as critical of the company.

Today, the US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts charged six former staff with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Those staff members include a former senior director of safety and security, former director of global resiliency, former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center, former senior manager of special operations and a former contractor.

According to the Department of Justice, in 2019, after the newsletter published an article about litigation involving eBay, executive leadership sent messages that it was time to “take down” the newsletter’s editor. That kicked off a three-part harassment campaign. First, the former employees began sending ominous items to the newsletter editor and her husband, who served as publisher. They also sent porn addressed to the editor to neighboring homes, allegedly harassed the couple on Twitter and planned to dox them. 

According to the DOJ a few of the former employees registered for a software development conference in Boston and then drove to the victims’ home in nearby Natick, Massachusetts. They allegedly intended to break into the victims’ garage and install a GPS tracking device on their car, but the victims noticed the surveillance and notified the Natick police. The eBay employees allegedly tried to interfere with the investigation that followed.

In a statement published today, eBay says it was notified by law enforcement of suspicious behavior in August 2019 and began its own investigation. By September 2019, it terminated all involved employees, including its former chief communications officer. eBay’s former CEO Devin Wenig left the company the same month.

“The internal investigation found that, while Mr. Wenig’s communications were inappropriate, there was no evidence that he knew in advance about or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband,” eBay said. “However, as the Company previously announced, there were a number of considerations leading to his departure from the Company.”

The charges would be significant if they incriminated a group of rogue mid-level staffers, but the fact that the cyberstalking and harassment was allegedly carried out by senior-level staff make the charges that much more disturbing.

“eBay does not tolerate this kind of behavior,” the company said in its statement. “eBay apologizes to the affected individuals and is sorry that they were subjected to this.

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