"We're here today to announce charges against six former employees of eBay for orchestrating an extensive and disturbing campaign of harassment and intimidation against a middle-aged couple living in Natick, Massachusetts."
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts on Monday described a bizarre scheme allegedly hatched by former members of eBay's global security team - some of them senior-level employees - involving anonymous email threats and home deliveries including live cockroaches, a bloody pig mask and a funeral wreath to a couple who publish an online newsletter called "Ecommercebytes" - a small, independent trade publication - that reviewed e-commerce company services and was sometimes critical of eBay.
"eBay executives were not merely unhappy with the victims' coverage, they were enraged. One of those executives texted that he wanted to quote 'crush this lady' unquote... The result, as alleged in the complaint was a systematic campaign fueled by the resources of a Fortune 500 company to emotionally and psychologically terrorize this middle-aged couple in Natick with the goal of deterring them from writing bad things online about eBay... These deliveries included fly larvae and live spiders, a box of live cockroaches, a sympathy wreath on the occasion of the death of a loved one, a book of advice on how to survive the death of a spouse, pornography mailed to their next-door neighbors but in the couple's names, a Halloween mask featuring the face of a bloody pig and a pig fetus, which was ordered but, after an inquiry by the supplier, thankfully, was never sent."
All six defendants were criminally charged with cyberstalking. The defendants include eBay's former senior director of safety and security and its former director of global resiliency.
In a statement, eBay said it fired the defendants last September and apologized to the couple.
"The directive to do something about this goes pretty high up the chain within eBay."
eBay also said that an internal probe into the matter found that former CEO Devin Wenig, who stepped down last September, had made "inappropriate" communications, but said there was no evidence he authorized any harassment.
Wenig, who once served as a high level executive at Thomson Reuters, did not respond to requests for comment, but told the Financial Times he had known nothing about the alleged harassment.