Feds Charge Seventh eBay Exec Over Obsessive Plot to Cyberstalk Critical Bloggers

Feds Charge Seventh eBay Exec Over Obsessive Plot to Cyberstalk Critical Bloggers
eBay HQ in San Jose, California, in 2014. (Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

Another former eBay exec, Philip Cooke, has been charged in federal court for allegedly participating in an amazingly dipshit plot to cyberstalk a couple that criticised the e-commerce site in a newsletter. That brings the total number of former eBay workers facing charges to seven — and the number of former cops in that group to two.

Five since-fired eBay executives and a contractor were already charged last month with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses, and if convicted they could each face up to five years in prison, a $US250,000 ($358,950) fine, and an order to pay restitution. The Department of Justice claims that the executives orchestrated a “cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company” beginning in August 2019, namely by sending them anonymous social media threats and mailing them objects like a box of cockroaches, live spiders, a funeral wreath, a bloody pig mask, porn, and even a book on “surviving the loss of a spouse.”

(Per U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, a pig foetus was also ordered but never delivered after the supplier grew suspicious, and the eBay execs also posted invitations to a nonexistent swinger’s party at the couples’ address to Craigslist.)

According to the DOJ press release, this was all because troglodytic eBay execs’ egos were bruised by the couple’s coverage of a racketeering lawsuit eBay filed against Amazon, as well the accompanying comment section. One of the alleged conspirators was supposedly planned to approach the couple at a later date to offer assistance on behalf of eBay, thus generating positive media attention for the company. The DOJ claims the defendants engaged in extensive surveillance of the couple and at one point was planning to break into their homes to attach a GPS device to their vehicle.

The defendants also allegedly deleted evidence when they caught on that eBay and the police were investigating, as well as discussed giving police false leads as a distraction, perhaps unaware that it had become a federal case.

If true, this was all obviously an ironclad plan with no gaping flaws or any possibility of backfiring in disastrous fashion. The perfect crime, one might say.

The six former eBay workers previously charged include:

  • James Baugh, Senior Director of Safety & Security
  • David Harville, Director of Global Resiliency
  • Stephanie Popp, Senior Manager of Global Intelligence
  • Stephanie Stockwell, Manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Centre
  • Brian Gilbert, Senior Manager of Special Operations for eBay’s Global Security Team
  • Veronica Zea, a contractor for eBay’s Global Intelligence Centre

At the time, WBZ reported two high-ranking individuals in the company’s hierarchy had not yet been charged. On Tuesday, the DOJ charged Cooke, a former security operations supervisor at eBay’s European and Asian offices referred to as “Supervisor 1” in charging documents, in Boston federal court on the same counts.

According to Bloomberg, Cooke is not the most senior of the seven known defendants. At this time, authorities haven’t publicly identified the remaining eBay exec or how high up the ladder they were. Ex-CEO Devin Wenig triggered the whole debacle by sending angry texts to a colleague over the original post, but has escaped any criminal charges so far. However, the FBI said that defendant Baugh “referred to having executive support for these actions” and threatened to send a “Samoan gang” after the publishers of the newsletter if the eBay harassment detail failed in its mission.

Prior to working for eBay, Cooke was a captain in the Santa Clara Police Department — which is more than a little curious, as fellow defendant Gilbert was also a captain in that department before he worked for eBay. Hmm. (A Santa Clara police spokesperson previously told Gizmodo that it was “conducting an internal review to ensure that [Gilbert’s] behaviour as an employee was lawful and consistent with the expectations we have for all our employees.”)

eBay “terminated Philip Cooke in connection with the matters discussed in the complaint and associated affidavit announced by the U.S. attorney’s Office in Massachusetts,” company spokeswoman Ashley Settle told Bloomberg in a statement. “If new facts become available as a result of the government’s work or otherwise, we will take further action as warranted.”