UNITED STATES NEWS

Feds charge eBay over employees who sent live spiders and cockroaches to couple; company to pay $3M

Jan 11, 2024, 10:37 AM

BOSTON (AP) — Online retailer eBay Inc., will pay a $3 million fine to resolve criminal charges over a harassment campaign waged by employees who sent live spiders, cockroaches and other disturbing items to the home of a Massachusetts couple, according to court papers filed Thursday.

The Justice Department charged eBay in a criminal information with stalking and other offenses more than three years after the employees were prosecuted in the extensive scheme to intimidate David and Ina Steiner. The couple produced an online newsletter called EcommerceBytes that upset eBay executives with its coverage.

EBay has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement that could result in the charges against the California-headquartered company being dismissed if it complies with certain conditions, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts.

The Steiners, the newsletter’s publisher and editor, have also sued the e-commerce giant in federal court, describing how cyberstalking and upsetting deliveries of anonymously sent packages upended their lives.

Ina Steiner received harassing and sometimes threatening Twitter messages as well as dozens of strange emails from groups like an irritable bowel syndrome patient support group and the Communist Party of the United States.

Along with a box of live spiders and the cockroaches, the couple had a funeral wreath, a bloody pig mask and a book about surviving the loss of a spouse show up at their door. Their home address also was posted online with announcements inviting strangers to yard sales and parties.

The harassment started in 2019 after Ina Steiner wrote a story about a lawsuit brought by eBay that accused accusing Amazon of poaching its sellers, according to court records.

A half-hour after the article was published, eBay’s then-CEO, Devin Wenig, sent another top executive a message saying: “If you are ever going to take her down … now is the time,” according to court documents. The executive sent Wenig’s message to James Baugh, who was eBay’s senior director of safety and security, and called Ina Steiner a “biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN.”

Baugh was among seven former employees who ultimately pleaded guilty to charges in the case. He was sentenced in 2022 to almost five years in prison. Another former executive, David Harville, was sentenced to two years.

Wenig, who stepped down as CEO in 2019, was not criminally charged in the case and has denied having any knowledge of the harassment campaign or ever telling anyone to do anything illegal. In the civil case, his lawyers have said the “take her down” quote was taken out of context and the natural inference should be that he was referring to taking “lawful action,” not “a series of bizarre criminal acts.”

Baugh, whom prosecutors described as the mastermind of the scheme, at one point recruited Harville to go with him to Boston to spy on the Steiners, authorities said. Baugh, Harville and another eBay employee went to the couple’s home in the hopes of installing a GPS tracker on their car, prosecutors said. The trio found the garage locked, so Harville bought tools with a plan to break in, prosecutors said.

Harville’s attorneys have said he had no involvement in or knowledge about the threatening messages or deliveries sent by his colleagues.

Baugh’s lawyers have said their client faced relentless pressure from Wenig and other executives to do something about the Steiners. Baugh alleged he was then pushed out by the company when “an army of outside lawyers descended to conduct an ‘internal investigation’ aimed at saving the company and its top executives from prosecution.”

United States News

Associated Press

Rail bridge collapses during Midwest flooding as a heat wave persists across much of the US

Millions of Americans sweated through a scorching weekend as temperatures soared across the U.S., while residents were rescued from floodwaters that forced evacuations across the Midwest. One person died during flooding in South Dakota, the governor said. From the mid-Atlantic to Maine, across the Great Lakes region, and throughout the West to California, public officials […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

3 Columbia University administrators put on leave over alleged text exchange at antisemitism panel

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University said it has placed three administrators on leave while it investigates allegations that they exchanged unprofessional text messages while attending a panel discussion about antisemitism on campus. The university said the administrators work for its undergraduate Columbia College, which hosted the panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present […]

14 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged in shooting that critically wounded Philadelphia officer, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 36-year-old Philadelphia man was charged Sunday with attempted murder in connection with a shooting that critically wounded a police officer after a traffic stop, police said. Ramon Rodriguez Vazquez also faces charges that include aggravated assault and home invasion, police said. The 31-year-old officer and his partner stopped a car carrying […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

California boy, 4, who disappeared from campground found safe after 22 hours alone in wilderness

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A 4-year-old California boy who wandered away from a campground in the Sierra National Forest was found safe after spending 22 hours alone in the wilderness, authorities said. A search-and-rescue team of about 50 officers and volunteers set out around 11 a.m. Thursday after the child was reported missing from the […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

One man died and five others were hospitalized in downtown St. Louis shooting

ST. LOUIS (AP) — One man is dead and five others have been wounded in a downtown St. Louis shooting, police said. Police believe women were fighting in a park when men interfered and drew firearms, according to social media posts from the agency. The man who died was in his mid-twenties, police said. Five […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

Michigan sheriff’s deputy fatally shot pursuing a stolen vehicle in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan county sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot while pursing a suspected stolen vehicle in Detroit, the Oakland County sheriff’s office said Sunday. Bradley J. Reckling, who was on duty in an unmarked car, was following a 2022 Chevy Equinox Saturday evening after the vehicle was reported stolen earlier in the day […]

18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Feds charge eBay over employees who sent live spiders and cockroaches to couple; company to pay $3M