Inside eBay’s Cockroach Cult: The Ghastly Story of a Stalking Scandal

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One yr later, on June 15, 2020, the U.S. Division of Justice charged six former eBay staff, all a part of the company safety workforce, with conspiring to commit cyberstalking and tamper with witnesses. Their alleged targets had been nearly comically obscure — a mom-and-pop running a blog duo from a suburb of Boston and a Twitter gadfly who wrote typically of their feedback part. In response to the federal government, their strategies had been juvenile and grotesque, that includes cockroaches, pornography, barely veiled threats of violence and dying, bodily surveillance and the weaponization of late-night pizza.

“This was a decided, systematic effort by senior staff of a significant firm to destroy the lives of a pair in Natick,” stated the U.S. legal professional in Boston, Andrew Lelling, at a information convention, “all as a result of they revealed content material the corporate executives didn’t like.”

Every cost carries a sentence of as much as 5 years in jail. Mr. Baugh, whose age was given as 45, and his deputy, David Harville, 48, had been arrested. The opposite defendants are Ms. Zea, who’s now 26; Ms. Popp, 32; Stephanie Stockwell, 26; and Brian Gilbert, 51. A seventh worker, Philip Cooke, 55, was charged in July. Contacted by their legal professionals, none would remark besides Ms. Zea, who stated she would plead responsible. Ms. Popp, Ms. Stockwell, Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Cooke are anticipated to do the identical. The case continues to be open.

This account is predicated on courtroom paperwork and dozens of interviews with individuals who adopted the stalking scandal intently, together with six who labored in International Safety and Resilience. The scheme they describe was each utterly malevolent and remarkably inept — stuffed with daft assumptions on the a part of eBay a couple of plot that didn’t exist. It stands as a warning about how simply tech firms can really feel aggrieved, and the mayhem that may ensue after they do. And it vividly exhibits how the web makes folks loopy, typically with out them ever realizing it.

Paul Florence was the chief government of Concentric Advisors, the staffing company that positioned Ms. Zea at eBay. “It felt like eBay was breaking the analysts down psychologically — making them doubt themselves, isolating them, turning them in opposition to one another,” he stated. In 18 months, eBay fired at the least a dozen analysts. When Mr. Florence protested, his agency was fired, too.

“I used to be relieved,” he stated. “It appeared like a cult.”

Like many individuals through the dot-com growth of the late 1990s, Ina and David Steiner took a interest and turned it right into a enterprise. Ina labored at a publishing firm and picked up books. David, a video producer, had been going to yard gross sales since he was a child. He preferred promoting collectibles, vintage instruments — something that caught his eye. In 1999, 4 years after eBay was based, when the notion of transacting with strangers on-line was nonetheless for the daring, they began a modest web site providing recommendation to consumers.

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