Ex-eBay employees plead guilty to 'cyberstalking' critics
The 3-part scheme involved sending anonymous and disturbing deliveries to victims’ home
Two former eBay employees pleaded guilty Thursday to taking part in an "aggressive" cyberstalking campaign against a Boston-area couple who ran a newsletter critical of the e-commerce giant.
EBay’s former Senior Manager of Global Intelligence, Stephanie Popp, and a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in eBay’s Global Intelligence Center, Veronica Zea, were accused of participating in a scheme that involved sending anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home in the suburb of Natick.
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The scheme involved five other former employees and executives, who have since been charged in connection with the case, authorities said.
Prosecutors say members of the executive leadership team at eBay often took issue with the newsletter, which covers e-commerce companies.
According to court documents, the editor and publisher of the newsletter were targeted after an article about litigation involving eBay in August 2019. Some members of eBay’s executive leadership team sent or forwarded text messages that suggested it was time to "take down" its editor, prosecutors said.
Popp and Zea are accused of conspiring with the former employees and executives in sending items to the couple such as a preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask, a funeral wreath and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse.
Pornography addressed to the victims was delivered to their neighbor’s homes, prosecutors say, and Zea sent live insects to the victims’ residence.
Another part of the scheme involved sending private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content and even threatening to travel to the victims' home. The plan was for the messages to become increasingly more disturbing and eventually reveal the victims' home address.
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The group drove to the home several times, planning to break into the victims’ garage and install a GPS tracking device on their car, court documents say.
The Natick Police Department was notified after the victims discovered they were being watched.
EBay says it was notified by law enforcement in August 2019 of "suspicious actions by its security personnel toward a blogger, who writes about the company, and her husband."
EBay’s Board of Directors immediately formed an independent special committee to oversee an investigation into the matter. After the investigation, the company terminated the employees who were involved, including the company’s former chief communications officer in September 2019.
“EBay does not tolerate this kind of behavior," eBay's independent special committee said. "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.”