By CATHERINE THORBECKE and AARON KATERSKY, ABC News
(BOSTON) — Six former eBay employees now face charges involving a bizarre cyberstalking campaign that authorities say targeted a Massachusetts couple who published a newsletter that was occasionally critical of the e-commerce site, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced Monday.
The former eBay employees allegedly harassed the Natick, Massachusetts, couple, sending them threatening messages and unwelcome deliveries that included a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody pigs mask, the U.S. attorney’s office said. They also allegedly conducted covert surveillance of the couple.
The victims of the cyberstalking campaign were the editor and publisher of an online newsletter that covered the e-commerce space.
“These deliveries included fly larvae and live spiders, a box of live cockroaches, a sympathy wreath on the occasion of the death of a loved one, a book of advice on how to survive the death of a spouse,” U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said Monday at a news conference.
“To be clear, based on the complaint unsealed today, eBay executives were not just unhappy about the victims’ coverage, they were enraged. One of those executives texted that he wanted to ‘crush this lady,"” he added.
In August 2019, the newsletter wrote about “litigation involving eBay,” according to a statement from Lelling’s office. Shortly after, two members of eBay’s leadership team “sent or forwarded text messages suggesting that it was time to ‘take down’ the newsletter’s editor,” the statement added.
The six former eBay employees then unleashed a “three-part harassment campaign” on the couple, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
In addition to sending the disturbing deliveries, the employees also allegedly took to Twitter to criticize the newsletter and send messages threatening to visit the couple. They also allegedly covertly surveilled the victims in their homes and communities.
Authorities said the employees drove by the victims’ home and at one point two former employees even carried false documents that supposedly showed they were investigating the couple as “persons of interest” who had threatened eBay executives.
Among the six former eBay employees who were charged are the company’s former senior director of safety and security and its former director of global resiliency. All six former employees face charges of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witness.
EBay responded to the news in a statement Monday, saying it immediately launched an outside investigation when it was made aware in August 2019 by law enforcement of “suspicious actions by its security personnel toward a blogger, who writes about the Company, and her husband.”
As a result of the investigation, eBay terminated all involved employees, the statement added.
“EBay took these allegations very seriously from the outset. Upon learning of them, eBay moved quickly to investigate thoroughly and take appropriate action,” the independent special committee formed by eBay’s board of directors to oversee the company’s investigation said in a statement. “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.”
EBay added that neither the company nor any current eBay employee has been indicted.
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