Two former eBay Inc security chiefs were sentenced to prison on Thursday for campaigning to harass and intimidate a Massachusetts couple through threats and disturbing home mailings 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 included sending the couple cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody Halloween pig mask.
U.S. District Judge Patti Saris, who imposed the sentence at the hearings in Boston, said it was “hard to imagine” a scheme fueled by a “toxic culture” at the Silicon Valley e-commerce company.
“It was extreme and horrible,” Saris said.
Baugh, eBay’s former chief safety and security officer, and Harville, the former director of global resilience, were also ordered to pay fines of $40,000 and $20,000, respectively, after pleading guilty to cyberstalking charges.
In court, they apologized to David and Ina Steiner, a married couple from Natick, Massachusetts, who produce the EcommerceBytes newsletter and said they are constantly terrorized by eBay employees.
“As eBay agents, they made our lives hell,” David Steiner told the judge.
Prosecutors said senior executives viewed the newsletter as critical of eBay, and in August 2019, then-CEO Devin Wenig sent a message to another executive saying it was “time to tear her down,” referring to Ina Steiner.
Wenig, a former Thomson Reuters executive who stepped down as CEO of eBay in September 2019, was not fired, although seven others were. A spokesman said Wenig had “absolutely zero knowledge” of his actions.
Baugh, a former Central Intelligence Agency employee who oversaw the campaign, felt pressure to do something, his lawyer says.
At Baugh’s direction, the Steiners received anonymous and harassing Twitter messages, strange emails and spider-like home deliveries and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, prosecutors said.
Other eBay employees involved said Harville, Baugh hired a contractor to look after the Steiners and try to install a GPS in the car.
Steiner’s lawsuit against eBay, Wenig and others remains pending.