A former eBay security manager has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after helping to orchestrate a batshit insane plot to terrorize a Massachusetts couple who occasionally criticized the company in their newsletter.
Philip Cooke, 56, is the first of seven former high-level eBay employees to be sentenced in connection to the bizarre case—the likes of which involved company executives mailing macabre items and live insects to their victims, stalking them online, and literally stalking them.
Cooke pled guilty to cyberstalking and witness tampering charges late last year. Four other members of the team have pled guilty to similar charges and await sentencing, while two others face trial.
A former police captain in Santa Clara, Calif., Cooke worked as senior manager of security operations for eBay’s Global Security Team during the whole fiasco and has since admitted to being at several meetings wherein he and his co-conspirators discussed a multi-phase plan of aggressive tactics to intimidate their targets.
Those targets were Ina and David Steiner, the publishers of an e-commerce newsletter that has occasionally written about and criticized eBay’s business practices. The criticism apparently so enraged the company’s leadership that, in 2019, a scheme was cooked up by security executives to frighten the bloggers straight.
That scheme involved mailing the middle-aged couple live spiders and cockroaches, pornographic magazines, threatening letters, a funereal wreath, and a bloody pig mask like some shit out of Saw. The team also used online sock puppet accounts to send anonymous, threatening messages to their victims, while also conspiring to affix a GPS tracking device to the couple’s car. The apparent ringleader, former Senior Director of Safety & Security and resident psycho James Baugh, also internally discussed sending a “Samoan gang” to the Steiners’ house.
The boardroom crew from hell subsequently attempted to cover up all of the horrendous shit they’d done, which is why many of them have now been convicted of witness tampering.
Ars Technica writes that Cooke was actually promoted by eBay and given a significant pay bump some ten months after the stalking campaign began and shortly before the entire episode became public in mid-2020.
Cooke’s attorney has apparently blamed all of this abhorrent behavior on a “drinking culture” at eBay, which is a weird defense since most people just get giggly or loud when they’re drunk, typically steering clear of schemes to torture journalists.
Understandably, the Steiners are now suing eBay. The couple filed a large suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts seeking damages for emotional trauma and other legitimate grievances, in which they accuse the company of having “engaged in a coordinated effort to intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence the Steiners, in order to stifle their reporting on eBay.”
The sick joke of the entire episode is that all this terribleness was inspired by eBay’s apparent fear of bad press, which they now have more than plenty of.