Six former eBay employees became involved in a strange trial. According to the investigation, eBay employees organized the persecution and intimidation of a couple of bloggers from the city of Natick, Massachusetts.The auction employees literally terrorized the spouses that published unflattering articles about eBay, sending them live cockroaches and funeral wreaths, sending threatening messages, and even planned to put a bug for wiretapping in their car.
The U.S. Department of Justice said two ex-executives of eBay were arrested earlier this week: 45-year-old James Baugh (former senior security and safety director of eBay) and 48-year-old David Harville, former director of eBay on global sustainability). Both were charged with conspiracy to commit cyber stalking and conspiracy to put pressure on witnesses.
Also in this case appear four more former eBay employees. They were not taken into custody, but similar charges were also brought against them.
Essentially, all these people are accused of persecuting a middle-aged couple from the city of Natick in Massachusetts. The fact is that the spouses, whose names were not disclosed, had their own blog dedicated to e-commerce and online stores, where they sometimes criticized eBay.
The Wired magazine compiled a timeline of the incident, drawing on information from court documents and other open sources. The result was a frightening and surrealistic picture.
The company held a series of meetings at which it was decided that it was necessary by all means to force the spouses from Massachusetts to stop publishing negative articles about eBay.
“According to an anonymous witness, at one of these meetings, Baugh showed the team a video from the movie “Johnny, be good”, in which prankers sent absurd and undesirable things to people with home delivery. Baugh suggested using the same tactics and brainstorming: eBay employees decided what to send to spouses from Massachusetts to scare and demoralize them”, – write Wired reporters.
Along with this, it was decided to launch a campaign on social networks: eBay representatives sent anonymous tweets and personal messages to the couple, pretending to be angry eBay sellers, and also took responsibility for the terrible parcels that the couple soon began to receive. Also, the auction staff leaked the victims’ home address in open access.
In the end, eBay employees planned to intervene and offer their spouses help (using the former Santa Clara police captain): contact the victims with a proposal to help stop the persecution.
The stalking and bullying campaign started in August 2019.
“So, on August 7, on Twitter was created Tui _Elei account, allegedly created by one of the respondents. From this account, female victim began to receive messages asking them what was her problem with eBay. When she did not answer, messages continued to arrive, becoming more rude. The very next evening, the victim discovered that someone had used her email to sign up for dozens of all kinds of mailings”, – say in Wired.
On August 10, 2019, parcels began to arrive to spouses. The first alarm was an email confirming the “canned pig embryo” order, which was supposed to be delivered to the victims ’home (the order was later canceled after a request from the seller.) On the same day, Amazon delivered the couple a Halloween mask in the form of a bloodied pig face. Just fourteen minutes later, Tui_Elei sent another message to the victim, saying: “NOW I got your attention ????”.
On August 12-15, parcels continued to arrive. So, the couple received a funeral wreath, a book on how to survive the loss of a spouse, a box with live cockroaches, as well as a fake message saying that the franchise of sex toys Adam & Eve was opened in their name. From the Tui_Elei account, meanwhile, insults continued to pour in.
In the following days, on behalf of the couple, a number of announcements were posted on the network, including about selling a house and an invitation for swingers and singles after 10 pm to come to their home, “knock and call at any time of the day or night.” Tui_Elei wrote at the time: “You received my presents, bit*h, yes !!??”.
Shortly afterwards, the victims finally managed to block Tui_Elei’s Twitter account (due to docking), however, the deleted account was immediately replaced by new ones, which the prosecutor’s office also linked to eBay.
“These were the decisive, systematic efforts of senior employees of a large company aimed at destroying the life of a couple from Natik. And all due to the fact that they published content that the company management did not like, ”said Attorney Andrew Lelling at a press conference. “For some time, these efforts were successful, leading to the psychological extermination of the victims for several weeks, while they were desperate to find out what was happening and how to stop it.”
On August 21, two important events happened at once: an eBay employee made contact with the couple, and Natika’s police tracked the license plate number of the rented car used by the stalkers.
When local police started making inquiries, eBay officials realized that the gift cards they had purchased to fund their campaign could be traced back to the town of Santa Clara, not far from eBay headquarters. Then they tried to launch an investigation on a false trail and create a fake suspect – a native of Samoa.
But this lie did not have time to go far: on August 22, the police in the case FBI, and on August 26, began eBay internal investigation about an accident.
Each of the charges to the offenders entails imprisonment of up to five years, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 and damages restitution.
Let me remind you that FBI also warned about increase of supply chains attacks.