Former eBay CEO James Baugh gets 5 years in prison for harassment campaign, another sentenced

BOSTON (AP) – Formerly eBay CEO Inc. on Thursday was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for leading a scheme terrorize the creators of an online newsletter including sending live spiders, cockroaches, a funeral wreath and other disturbing deliveries to their home.

David Steiner, who along with his wife was the target of the harassment campaign, told the court that former eBay Senior Director of Safety and Security James Baugh and other eBay employees had made their lives difficult. into “a hell on earth”. He expressed fear that other companies would use it as a blueprint to pursue future journalists.

“This is a strange, premeditated attack on our lives… with eBay buying at its highest,” Steiner told the judge.

Another former eBay executive, David Harville, was sentenced to two years behind bars on Thursday for his role in a scheme to target David and Ina Steiner, the publisher and reporter who led the executives executives were angry when they covered the company in their newsletter, eCommerceBytes.

Baugh and Harville, eBay’s one-time director of global resilience, are among seven former employees who have pleaded guilty in the case.

Court records in the case show how infuriated top eBay executives became at Steiners’ newsletter and readers who posted critical comments about the company on their website, which eBay considers a threat to its business.

This plan was launched in August 2019 after Ina Steiner wrote a story about a lawsuit brought by eBay alleging Amazon poach its seller. Half an hour after the article was published, then-CEO Devin Wenig sent another top eBay executive a message: “If you’re going to take her down… now is the time. , according to court documents. That moderator sent Wenig’s message to Baugh and called Ina Steiner a “troll bias who needs to be taken down”.

Before long, Ina Steiner began to receive harassing and sometimes threatening words Twitter message. Strange anonymous packages began arriving at the couple’s home, including a box of live spiders, a funeral wreath and a book about surviving the loss of a spouse. Ina Steiner began receiving dozens of strange emails from groups such as the irritable bowel syndrome support group and the Communist Party of America, authorities said.

Authorities described Baugh as the mastermind of the plot and said he directed eBay employees to use prepaid debit cards, disguised accounts and overseas email accounts to conceal his involvement. company.

Baugh then recruited Harville to accompany him to Boston to spy on the pair, authorities said. Baugh, Harville, and another eBay employee went to the couple’s home hoping to install a GPS tracking device on their car, but the garage was locked, so Harville bought the tools with a break-in plan. , prosecutors said.

Harville’s attorneys said he was not involved or aware of the threatening messages or deliveries sent by his colleagues.

Prosecutors said in court documents that although Harville was not present at the initial meetings about the plan, “he was aware enough of the harassment by the time he was in Boston to joked with Baugh about delivering a bag of human excrement, a running chainsaw, and a “rat” to their porch.

Baugh’s attorneys said their client has faced “stressful, unrelenting pressure” from executives – including Wenig – to do something about Steiners. They described Baugh as a “tool” used by eBay and then scrapped when “an army of outside lawyers launched an ‘internal investigation’ to save the company and its executives.” its highest from prosecution.”

Wenig, who stepped down as CEO in 2019, has not been charged criminally in the case but faces a civil lawsuit from the pair. He has denied any knowledge of the harassment campaign. In court papers, his lawyer said that the “knock her down” quote was taken out of context and that it was “naturally inferred” that he was referring to the execution of “the act.” legal action, such as a public refutation”, not “a series of strange offenses.”

“At this point, an independent investigation has said that Mr Wenig had no knowledge and prosecutors in the case have made it clear that Baugh is responsible. Devin never tells anyone to do anything unethical or illegal and if he knew about it, he would stop doing it,” a Wenig spokesperson said in an email. .

Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Kosto accused Baugh of trying to mitigate liability, saying that no one above him at eBay “told him to anonymously threaten and harass and stalk the Steiners.”

Steiners said the terror campaign stole their sense of security and had serious consequences for their business and finances.

“What eBay — the defendant and other co-conspirators, both prosecuted and not charged — did to us has changed me forever and I don’t think the old David will ever come back,” David Steiner said.

Both Baugh and Harville apologized to the Steiners for their actions before their sentences were delivered. Baugh tells Steiners that he hopes they will one day forgive him.

“I am 100% responsible for this, and there is no excuse for what I did,” Baugh said. “The bottom line is simply this: If I had done the right thing and was strong enough to make the right choice, we wouldn’t be here today, and I’m really sorry for that.”

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