U.S. judge jails two former eBay executives for harassing couple behind newsletter

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Two former eBay Inc security executives were sentenced to prison on Thursday for carrying out a campaign to harass and intimidate a Massachusetts couple through threats and disturbing home deliveries after their online newsletter drew the ire of the company’s then-CEO.

Jim Baugh and David Harville were sentenced to 57 and 24 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in an extensive harassment campaign that involved sending the couple cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody Halloween pig mask.

U.S. District Judge Patti Saris, who imposed the sentenced during hearings in Boston, called it a “hard-to-imagine” scheme fueled by a “toxic culture” at the Silicon Valley e-commerce company.

“It was extreme and outrageous,” Saris said.

She ordered Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, and Harville, its former director of global resiliency, to also pay fines of $40,000 and $20,000, respectively, after pleading guilty to cyberstalking-related charges.

In court, they each apologized to David and Ina Steiner, a married couple in Natick, Massachusetts, who produce the newsletter EcommerceBytes and spoke of being relentlessly terrorized by eBay’s employees.

“As agents of eBay, they made our lives a living hell,” David Steiner told the judge.

Prosecutors said senior executives deemed the newsletter critical of eBay, and in August 2019 then-Chief Executive Officer Devin Wenig texted another executive that it was time to “take her down,” referring to Ina Steiner.

Wenig, a former Thomson Reuters executive who stepped down as eBay’s CEO in September 2019, was not charged, though seven other people were. A spokesman said Wenig had “absolutely zero knowledge” of the actions they undertook.

Overseeing the campaign was Baugh, a former Central Intelligence Agency employee who, according to his lawyer, felt pressure to do something.

At Baugh’s direction, the Steiners received anonymous, harassing Twitter messages, bizarre emails, and unwanted home deliveries like spiders and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, prosecutors said.

They said other eBay employees involved included Harville, who Baugh recruited with a contractor for an “op” to surveil the Steiners and try unsuccessfully to install a GPS on their car.

A lawsuit by the Steiners against eBay, Wenig and others remains pending.

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