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Massachusetts couple who ran news website which criticized eBay share how staff then terrorized them


A couple have details of a ‘depraved’ campaign of harassment they endured at the hands of eBay staff after criticizing the web giant on their e-commerce news site.   

David and Ina Steiner received live cockroaches, a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, a bereavement wreath and a mask from the movie Saw that the killer wears before kidnapping, torturing and killing his victims.

David also recalled the moment he received a disturbing call from a shop in Arizona telling them they couldn’t deliver the ‘wet specimen’ they ordered. 

‘Not having any idea what a wet specimen was, I asked her. It was an embalmed pig fetus’, the shaken stalking victim told Good Morning America

David and Ina Steiner from Natick, Massachusetts, were the victims of a harassment campaign by eBay employees

The neighbors even received pornography addressed to David in a bid to cause the couple maximum embarrassment. 

‘Who could devise these tortuous packages? And the depravity – the messages , if you read the language – I never in a million years would have thought it was a company,’ Ina said.

The harassment started in June 2019 when a neighbor walking his dog pointed out that the Steiners’ fence had been graffitied.

The harassment started in June 2019 with smaller 'pranks' - such as when the couple was sent live cockroaches - but it soon spiraled into a three-part attack that would make the Steiners fear for their lives

The harassment started in June 2019 with smaller ‘pranks’ – such as when the couple was sent live cockroaches – but it soon spiraled into a three-part attack that would make the Steiners fear for their lives

The couple was sent a mask from the movie Saw that the killer wears before kidnapping, torturing and killing his victims

The couple was sent a mask from the movie Saw that the killer wears before kidnapping, torturing and killing his victims

The couple was sent a book on surviving the loss of a spouse

The couple was sent a book on surviving the loss of a spouse

David and Ina also received a bereavement wreath, which made them fear for their lives

David and Ina also received a bereavement wreath, which made them fear for their lives

The harassment spiraled from vandalism and unwanted, 'really disturbing' email subscriptions to eBay employees trying to place a tracking device on the car. The neighbors even received pornography addressed to David

The harassment spiraled from vandalism and unwanted, ‘really disturbing’ email subscriptions to eBay employees trying to place a tracking device on the car. The neighbors even received pornography addressed to David

It soon spiraled from the vandalism and unwanted, ‘really disturbing’ email subscriptions to eBay employees trying to place a tracking device on the car.

Prosecutors suspected the campaign was to stop the Steiners from continuing EcommerceBytes, a site dedicated to e-commerce news David and Ina have been running from their home for the past 22 years.

The site had been critical of eBay and its policies over the course of its reporting, which the Steiners say was honest and fair. 

Prosecutors suspected the campaign was to stop the Steiners from continuing EcommerceBytes, a site dedicated to e-commerce news David and Ina have been running from their home for the past 22 years

Prosecutors suspected the campaign was to stop the Steiners from continuing EcommerceBytes, a site dedicated to e-commerce news David and Ina have been running from their home for the past 22 years

The Steiners first called the police after feeling like a suspicious vehicle was following them and were told it was a prank. 

Co-conspirator Philip Cooke, 55, was a police captain in Santa Clara, California before becoming a supervisor of security operations for eBay. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, one year on home detention and two years of supervised release for his role in the cyberstalking. He was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service

Co-conspirator Philip Cooke, 55, was a police captain in Santa Clara, California before becoming a supervisor of security operations for eBay. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, one year on home detention and two years of supervised release for his role in the cyberstalking. He was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service

After the Steiners shared the photo of the car the police were able to track the license plate to a rental car checked out to a Veronica Zea. 

Zea, 26, was staying at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton hotel with a man named David Harville, 48, and the pair worked for eBay more than 3,000 miles away in San Jose, California. 

The Steiners and their lawyer soon found out this was not a prank but a ‘systematic campaign to emotionally and psychologically torture the pair in order to stifle their reporting on eBay’. 

Six eBay employees were charged with cyberstalking. The company has not commented.

Lead men Harville, eBay’s former Director of Global Resiliency, and 45-year-old James Baugh, eBay’s former Senior Director of Safety and Security, were arrested on June 15, 2020 on counts of conspiracy to commit stalking, stalking through interstate travel, witness tampering and destruction. 

The co-conspirators were Philip Cooke, 55, a former supervisor of security operations; Brian Gilbert, 52, a former Senior Manager of Special Operations for eBay’s Global Security Team; Stephanie Popp, 32, eBay’s former Senior Manager of Global Intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, 26, the former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center; and Zea, a former eBay contractor.

It is unclear why the posse took it upon themselves to allegedly target the Steiners so viciously. 

Cooke was sentenced to 18 months in prison, one year on home detention and two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $15,000 and to perform 100 hours of community service. 

He later asked for leniency in sentencing because he had an alcohol problem attributed to eBay’s ‘drinking culture,’ where an on-campus bar opened at 3pm and a morning shot was typical.

Gilbert, Popp, Stockwell and Zea plead guilty in October 2020 and are scheduled to be sentenced in September. 

The maximum penalty for each charge was up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution. 

eBay hasn’t commented on the case, other than to say it is cooperating fully with criminal investigators.  



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