A now-former eBay security director accused of harassing a couple who wrote a critical newsletter about the internet tat bazaar is set to plead guilty to cyberstalking.
James Baugh, of San Jose, California, was charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses, alongside six former colleagues in a baffling case brought in 2020.
Five of them pleaded guilty; Baugh and David Harville, eBay’s now-ex-director of global resiliency, denied the allegations and were due to go on trial.
Baugh, however, will plead guilty after all: according to Bloomberg and Reuters, his lawyer on Tuesday asked for a hearing in Boston in which Baugh will change his plea.
The group, while working for eBay, allegedly executed a “three-part harassment campaign,” according to US prosecutors, targeting the owners of ecommercebytes.com, Ina and David Steiner, who write blog posts and newsletters covering the e-commerce industry and scrutinizing eBay. The website’s coverage seemingly struck a nerve with some of those at the online souk back in 2019.
Baugh and his old colleagues allegedly started threatening and harassing the couple, sending them all sorts of strange objects in the post. The wife-and-husband duo were sent live cockroaches, a preserved fetal pig, a funeral wreath, a Halloween mask of a fake bloody pig’s head, a book on detailing how to survive “the loss of a spouse”, and pornography, it was claimed.
The second stage of the campaign involved allegedly harassing the Steiners online. They were bombarded with private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing their articles, according to prosecutors. The ex-eBay group were reportedly planning to reveal private and sensitive information about the couple. They also posted fake ads on Craigslist claiming that the Steiner’s hosted BDSM parties, it was alleged.
That wasn’t enough, however. The Steiners were subjected to physical stalking, too, it was claimed. A couple members of the group allegedly drove to their house on numerous occasions, hoping to break into their garage and install a GPS tracking device on their car. They were caught by the couple, however, who then called the police, it is said.
Management at eBay fired those allegedly involved in the cyberstalking ring as well as its chief communications officer in 2019, when it got wind of the criminal investigation.
“eBay took these allegations very seriously from the outset,” a spokesperson for the marketplace previously told The Register. “Upon learning of them, eBay moved quickly to investigate thoroughly and take appropriate action. The company cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities throughout the process. eBay does not tolerate this kind of behavior.
“eBay apologizes to the affected individuals and is sorry that they were subjected to this. eBay holds its employees to high standards of conduct and ethics and will continue to take appropriate action to ensure these standards are followed.” ®