Two Natick residents who found themselves under attack by a group of eBay executives and their underlings upset with what they wrote about the company say it's not enough that several of the conspirators have pleaded guilty - the company itself needs to pay for what happened to them.
Five now former eBay employees face sentencing - one on July 27th, the others on Sept. 30- for their role in the campaign against Ina and David Steiner, who run a news Web site that focuses on eBay and similar online commerce ventures, which included sending the couple packages including a bloody-face pig mask - the last thing victims in the horror movie "Saw" would see before their slaughter - live spiders, maggots and cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a book on surviving a spouse's death. They also sent the couple obscene messages and death threats on Twitter - and had pornography sent to their neighbors with the Steiners' names attached.
The campaign also included flying several of the minions to Boston, where they tried to surveil the couple - and put a GPS device on David Steiner's car - and then lied to a Natick police detective who proved not to be as stupid as the Silicon Valley goons thought he was, because he started the investigation that led to their arrests and indictments in federal court.
Two more eBay executives have decided not to plead guilty; they face a status hearing on July 29 in US District Court in Boston. After news of the investigation spread west, eBay CEO Devin Wenig, who was implicated in some of the text messages captured by the FBI, resigned. However, he was never indicted - and the company now claims the entire thing was done without its knowledge.
But the Steiners do name Wenig as a defendant in their racketeering lawsuit, filed today in US District Court in Boston - along with all the eBay executives and underlings who were indicted last year and Progressive F.O.R.C.E.Concepts, a California-based detective agency that allegedly worked with eBay on its campaign. The Steiners are represented by veteran criminal-defense attorney Rosemary Scapicchio.
Some of the Twitter messages sent to Ina Steiner from an account set up and run by one of the eBay employees:
Their complaint, which alleges "a coordinated effort to intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence the Steiners, in order to stifle their reporting on eBay," draws on documents filed in the federal criminal case against the now admitted cyberterrorists and the two who have not yet pleaded guilty, in particular a detailed affidavit by an FBI agent on the case. After describing the packages and tweets that came their way, they say:
The Defendants, including but not limited to Defendants Zea and Harville, carrying out the orders of eBay senior executives, menacingly stalked and tailed the Steiners in a black van and other rental vehicles, repeatedly circling the block, tracking their every move, and following David Steiner when he left the residence. The Defendants even went as far as to attempt to break into the Steiner garage in order to install a GPS tracking device on their vehicle. The Defendants, including but not limited to Baugh, Harville and Zea, had practiced installing a tracking device on a similar vehicle in California, in an eBay parking lot, for this specific purpose. Simultaneously, the Defendants who remained in California, including but not limited to Defendants Popp, Stockwell, Cooke and Gilbert, continued with the online threats and stalking, and their menacing skull avatar Twitter handle began publicly posting the Steiners’ home address on Twitter along with threats to kill the Steiners. The Defendants also posted the Steiner’s address on Craigslist and other websites, inviting strangers to the Steiners’ home for sex parties, and advertising yard sales, announcing that would-be visitors should knock on the door at all hours because "Everything must go!"
Fearing for their lives, the Steiners installed surveillance cameras to monitor anyone approaching their home. The Steiners manned the surveillance footage at all hours of the day and night, and stayed in separate bedrooms so that if any of the Defendants broke into their home or attacked one of the Steiners, the other could escape and call for help.
The Steiners were paralyzed with fear. Their calls to the local police grew more frequent, which Defendants Zea and Popp, at the direction of Defendant Baugh, monitored with a police scanner in an attempt to stay one step ahead of both the Steiners and any law enforcement. The Defendants knew the panic and fear they were inflicting on the Steiners by carrying out Defendants Wenig and Wymer’s plan, which only fueled their fire: they praised one another that their "work" was accomplishing their goal of intimidating, hreatening, torturing, terrorizing, stalking and silencing the Steiners. The Defendants callously joked that the Steiners were "seeing ghosts, think everyone is following them and they call the police every 10 minutes," and "We know the targets have been impacted by this op." Despite recognizing the mental and emotional anguish the Defendants were inflicting, the Defendants continued to persist with the conspiracy to intimidate, threaten, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence the Steiners.
Steiners were signed up to dozens of mailing lists and a threesome ad placed on Craigslist with their e-mail address:
And then, they continue:
Once the Defendants realized that the Natick Police Department ("NPD") was investigating the conspiracy, the Defendants plotted to destroy evidence, mislead the investigation, and divert attention away from eBay. Defendant Baugh called a meeting and directed the others to delete all communications and evidence relating to the scheme, and the Defendants persistently lied to investigators and fabricated evidence. Their cover-up attempts included efforts to create a fake dossier, and a phony "persons of interest" file on the Steiners to make them appear crazy, and ensure the Defendants could deflect their own blame when interacting with law enforcement.
Although CEO Wenig was not named in the criminal cases, he was as involved as anybody else, the Steiners allege:
Defendant Devin Wenig, then Chief Executive Officer of eBay, and Defendant Steven Wymer, then Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer of eBay, consistently tracked EcommerceBytes' reporting, and became increasingly enraged by what they perceived as the Steiners' negative coverage of eBay and the upper echelons of the corporation.
eBay, through its Chief Executive leadership, sent a directive and enlisted at least seven members of the eBay security staff – Defendants James Baugh, David Harville, Brian Gilbert, Stephanie Popp, Stephanie Stockwell, Philip Cooke, and Veronica Zea, an eBay contractor employed by PFC, most of whom, on information and belief directly or indirectly reported to eBay's Head of Security and Operations – to deal with the Steiners. Defendants Wenig and Wymer provided the other Defendants with carte blanche authority to terminate the reporting of the Steiners by whatever means necessary, with Defendant Wymer expressing "...I want to see ashes. As long as it takes. Whatever it takes." Defendant Wymer promised the Defendants he would, "embrace managing any bad fallout" if the plan went south, further directing, "We need to STOP her." All of the horrific, vicious and sickening conduct that followed was committed by employees of eBay and PFC, while acting in the scope of their employment under the authority of and for the benefit of eBay and PFC.
The Steiners are seeking an unspecified large amount of money to be determined at trial - times three - for their pain and suffering.
Complete complaint (1.3M PDF).