Six eBay employees sent a bloody pig mask, live bugs to newsletter critics

All because of some eBay criticism. The employees have been fired from eBay and are now being charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking.

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Six former eBay security employees are being accused of leading a cyberstalking campaign against a couple they thought were being overly critical of the company in an online newsletter, reports CBS Local. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling announced the charges in a press conference Monday morning.

Evidence from the case. Left: pig's mask; right: book about grief.CBS

The former staff allegedly sent a bloody pig mask, a box of live cockroaches, and a funeral wreath to the Natick, Massachusetts couple. They also threatened on multiple occasions to conduct in-person stalking for “covert surveillance” purposes.

This would be a wild story in any circumstances, but it’s made infinitely more chaotic by eBay’s involvement. And this was no rogue event — the decision to conduct a cyberstalking campaign came from and was carried out by high-ranking security staff at the company. All because they didn’t like the way a small-town newsletter spoke about the multi-billion dollar conglomerate they worked for.

Did you say bloody pig mask? — Yes. The six former employees sent a series of strange and threatening packages to the Natick couple as an intimidation tactic. Besides the bloody Halloween mask — it’s unclear whether the blood was part of the mask or added by the employees — there was also an attempt at delivering a pig fetus to the couple. The supplier apparently inquired about that package, leaving it unsent.

Other packages that did make it to the couple’s home: a box of live cockroaches, a delivery of fly larvae and live spiders, a sympathy wreath with a note about the death of a loved one, and a book of advice on surviving the death of a spouse. A box of pornography was also delivered to the couple’s neighbors with their names on it.

The employees also allegedly posted an ad on Craigslists inviting “singles, couples, and swingers” to their house to party after 10 p.m. The ad encouraged people to knock on their door late at night.

Who was involved? — In total, six former eBay employees have been charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. All except one were full-time security experts at eBay; one was an intelligence analyst hired as a contractor.

Those charged include David Harville, a former director of global resiliency at eBay; Stephanie Popp, a former senior manager of global intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, a former manager of global intelligence; Veronica Zeak, an intelligence analyst contractor; and Brian Gilbert, a former senior manager of special operations for eBay’s global security team. Gilbert was also formerly a police captain.

All because of a newsletter — The Natick couple edits and publishes an online newsletter that follows and critiques e-commerce companies. Some executives at eBay read what they viewed as unfair criticism against the company, as well as brash anonymous comments under the articles, and took action. Last year, two members of the leadership team allegedly sent text messages saying it was time to “take down” the newsletter’s editors. One said the group wanted to “crush this lady.”

All of the employees have since been fired from eBay after an internal investigation. Now they face criminal charges on a federal level. Was it worth it, folks? Was it worth traumatizing this couple because they criticized the website you work for?