A former eBay executive was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for sending live spiders, cockroaches, a funeral wreath and other disturbing packages to harass a couple who ran an online newsletter that criticized the company.
James Baugh, the e-tailer’s former senior director of safety and security, on Thursday was given 57 months in a Boston federal court in the scheme that saw seven other ex-employees plead guilty. Among those was David Harville, eBay’s former director of global resilience, who got a two-year sentence.
“This was a bizarre, premeditated assault on our lives, with buy-in at the highest levels of eBay,” David Steiner, one of the victims, told the judge.
Steiner and his wife, Ina, have run a trade publication called eCommerceBytes for over two decades. The outlet became a platform for online shoppers to voice complaints about websites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy.
In 2019, Ina wrote an article on the site about eBay suing Amazon for poaching its sellers that was seen as critical of eBay.
Court documents revealed that 30 minutes after that article was published, then-eBay CEO Devin Wenig sent an email to an executive reading, “If you are ever going to take her down … now is the time.”
Shortly afterward, the Boston-based couple reported being stalked by eBay executives who parked a black van outside their house, attempted to break into their garage, and sent threatening deliveries to their home like live insects and a book about surviving the loss of a spouse.
David Steiner testified that the company made their lives “a living hell” and that it must be held accountable in order to stop them from doing the same thing to other journalists that report on eBay.
Baugh, who the court identified as the mastermind of the scheme, apologized to the couple before his sentencing.
“I take 100% responsibility for this, and there is no excuse for what I have done,” Baugh said. “The bottom line is simply this: If I had done the right thing and been strong enough to make the right choice, we wouldn’t be here today, and for that, I am truly sorry.”
Wenig, who left eBay in 2019, has denied any wrongdoing and has not faced any criminal charges. However, the couple has filed a civil lawsuit against the former CEO. Wenig has denied any knowledge of the harassment campaign.