Statements by eBay and former CEO Devin Wenig are available here.
A couple who suffered threats and bizarre deliveries, including live spiders, cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody pig mask, are fighting back several eBays later. The employees have been sentenced in that case.
Filed by Ina and David Steiner A Civil suit against eBay and former executives following the 2019 cyberstalking campaign. A US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts investigation into the auction site is ongoing.
“It felt like corporate terrorism because we were the terrorists. And it was very calculated. It was very heinous,” Ina Steiner told 60 Minutes correspondent Sherin Alphonse.
Ina Steiner and her husband have worked together from their home for over 20 years. They publish a news website called EcommerceBytes, which focuses on players in the e-commerce industry. David Steiner handles the business side while Ina Steiner handles reporting.
Most of their 600,000 readers are sellers on sites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy, but the Steiners say e-commerce executives also read the articles closely.
On the morning of August 8, 2019, they started receiving strange emails. The couple was bombarded with newsletters they never signed up for: Sin City Fetish Night, Satanic Temple, Communist Party, and dozens more. Then the harassment started on Twitter.
“It was basically ‘shut up, or else,'” Ina Steiner said. “And it was, it was as brazen as that.”
Three days later, the Steiners received a strange call.
“Somebody left a voicemail for us, saying they couldn’t fill an order for a wet sample. And David was the one who called. And he said, ‘What’s a wet sample?’ And, and it was a pig fetus,” said Ina Steiner. “When I really, my heart sank, because I thought, ‘Who could be angry at something I wrote?’ And I couldn’t figure it out. I mean, we were, we were desperately trying to think, ‘Who could it be?’
As the harassment continued, the police started an investigation. The pornography was sent to the couple’s neighbors, but it was addressed to David Steiner. On social media, the Steiners’ home was listed as the site of yard sales and sex parties.
And then a book about surviving the loss of a spouse, addressed to David Steiner, arrived on their doorstep in Natick, Massachusetts.
US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
“It was a death threat. And followed up a few days later with a funeral wreath, an expensive funeral wreath,” David Steiner said. “It just confirmed that these people were going to hurt or kill Ina.”
For three weeks, packages and threats continued to arrive, even as police investigated and the Steiners installed security cameras. They began sleeping in separate rooms, so that at least one of them would be able to call the police or escape if someone broke in, David Steiner said.
“When it gets dark at night, that’s when I get really scared,” says Ina Steiner.
David Steiner was scared inside and afraid to leave the house after he was followed by a van and later a car one day. He snaps a photo of the license plate. That picture opened the case.
Sergeant Jason Sutherland and Detective John Haswell of the Natick, Massachusetts Police Department tracked down the license plate. The number traced back to a rental company where eBay employee Veronica Zea rented the van, Sutherland said.
“I don’t know, I can’t describe how shocked we were,” Ina Steiner said. “Ebay? I mean, what was an eBay employee doing in a rental van following David?”
The FBI took over the case. Ten months later, US Attorney Andrew Lelling made the announcement Complaints from several eBay employees and contractorsincluding Zea.
David Steiner said, “It didn’t take us an hour to realize that a public company was trying to destroy a journalist. They were attacking the First Amendment, the freedom of the press.” “They wanted to destroy Ina and our publication.”
Lelling said plans to target Steiners, which he described as a “campaign of terror”, were made on eBay in April 2019. Devin Wenig, who served as eBay’s CEO at the time, shared a link to a post Ina wrote about her annual salary. Steve Wymer, the company’s chief communications officer, responded: “We’re going to crush this woman.”
About a month later, Wenig texted: “Put him down.” Prosecutors said Wymer later texted eBay’s director of security gym tiger.
“I want to see Ash. As long as it takes. Whatever,” Wymer wrote.
Investigators said Bugg set up a meeting with security personnel and dispatched a team to Boston, about 20 miles from where the Steiners live.
Seven people who worked for eBay’s safety and security unit, including two ex-cops and a former nanny Convicted of stalking or cyberstalking charge. Baugh was sentenced to five years in prison and Jaya was sentenced to one year of house arrest and probation.
To date, eBay has not been charged with any crimes. The company said in a statement to 60 Minutes that the behavior of the former employees was wrong, adding that eBay has fully cooperated with the government investigation.
Lelling said there wasn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges against Wenig or Weimer, even with the texts they sent.
“People talk like that all the time, especially senior people in the company,” Lelling said. “It’s not the same as, ‘I’m knowingly participating in a criminal conspiracy to cyberstalk a couple in Natick.’ People use such loose talk all the time.”
Wymer was fired by eBay and now runs the Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley. He says his texts were misused and he learned about the behavior of employees.
Wenig, the former CEO, resigned from the company in 2019. He said in a statement to 60 Minutes that he was shocked by what happened. He said that if he had been aware at the time, he would have stopped it.
Wenig resigned from eBay in September 2019 with a $57 million exit package.