Massachusetts couple harassed by eBay tell their story

EBay called the 'misconduct' of the former employees 'wrong'

A Massachusetts couple who sued eBay, Inc. and several of the company's former officials in late July spoke out Tuesday morning, detailing the alleged harassment campaign against them that they said was carried out by the e-commerce giant.

Ina and David Steiner of Natick, Massachusetts, told ABC News' "Good Morning America" that the intimidation began when someone spray-painted graffiti on their fence in 2019.


"It was really disturbing. It just didn't make any sense," Ina said. 

The pair founded e-commerce newsletter site EcommerceBytes – launched in 1999 as AuctionBytes – and The Boston Globe reported last week that the Steiners' coverage could often be critical of eBay and its policies. 

The Steiners claim the intimidation orchestrated at the direction of eBay's higher-ups continuously escalated in an attempt to stifle their reporting.

"I started getting harassed online through Twitter, through unwanted e-mail subscriptions … And, these were really disturbing e-mails," Ina said.

"We got a phone call from a shop in Arizona that said that they couldn't deliver the wet specimen that we had ordered. Not having any idea what a wet specimen was, I asked her. She said it was an embalmed pig fetus," David added.

The Steiners' complaint states that as part of the "systematic campaign to emotionally and psychologically torture" them, employees of the nearly $47-billion-dollar company mailed threatening items to their home including insects, a mask that the Steiners' attorney Rosemary Scapicchio identified as from the horror movie "Saw," a book on surviving the loss of a spouse and a funeral wreath. 

Furthermore, the couple told "Good Morning America" that neighbors had received pornography addressed to David and that eBay employees had attempted to place a tracking device on their car. 

The Globe reported that the individuals went as far as to tail the Steiners in their rented cars after checking into the Boston Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

"Did it cross your mind at any point that eBay could be behind this?" asked ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis.

"No," Ina replied. "It was a psychopath. Who could devise these torturous packages? And, the depravity, the messages – if you read the language … I never in a million years would have thought it was a company."

"We still can't believe it and we still want to know why," she said.

EBay, in a statement to FOX Business, called the "misconduct" of the former employees "wrong."

"We will do what is fair and appropriate to try to address what the Steiners went through," the company said in the statement. "The events from 2019 should never have happened, and as eBay expressed to the Steiners, we are very sorry for what they endured. As noted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office when this matter first came to light, eBay cooperated fully with the government’s investigation, noting that ‘eBay was extremely cooperative with the investigation in helping state and federal authorities figure out what had happened and collect evidence of the crime.’" 

Federal prosecutors have criminally charged six eBay employees and a contractor with cyberstalking. 

Phillip Cooke, a retired Santa Clara, California, police captain and former security supervisor at eBay, was sentenced to 18 months behind bars last month for what U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs called "really abominable" actions.

Cooke was one of numerous other former eBay employees that pleaded guilty in connection with the case.

Two maintain their innocence and are currently awaiting trial.

According to The Globe, the spray-painting incident was instigated by James Baugh, who at the time was the head of eBay’s global security and resiliency unit.

Although the complaint said that the campaign of terror was sparked by complaints from then-eBay CEO Devin Wenig to communications lead Steve Wymer and then to Baugh, eBay's own investigation into the matter found that while Wenig's communications were "inappropriate" there was "no evidence that he knew in advance about or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband."


Wenig – who was named as a defendant in the suit  – stepped down from his post in September 2019 and eBay has apologized to the Steiners.

The Steiners are seeking legal fees, damages and relief in an amount determined by a jury.

FOX Business' Breck Dumas contributed to this report.