Michigan Man Who Orchestrated International Computer Fraud Scheme and Online Drug Distribution Scheme Pleads Guilty
BOSTON – A former eBay, Inc. executive pleaded guilty today in connection with his role in a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.
James Baugh, 47, of San Jose, Calif., eBay’s former Senior Director of Safety & Security, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit stalking through interstate travel and through facilities of interstate commerce, two counts of stalking through interstate travel, two counts of stalking through facilities of interstate commerce, two counts of witness tampering and two counts of destruction, alteration and falsification of records in a federal investigation. U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris scheduled sentencing for Sept. 29, 2022.
In June 2020, Baugh was arrested and charged along with David Harville, eBay’s former Director of Global Resiliency. Co-conspirators and former eBay employees Philip Cooke, Brian Gilbert, Stephanie Popp, Veronica Zea and Stephanie Stockwell previously pleaded guilty. Cooke was sentenced in July 2021 to 18 months in prison. Gilbert, Popp, Zea and Stockwell are awaiting sentencing. Harville has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
According to court documents, between approximately Aug. 5, 2019 and Aug. 23, 2020, Baugh and his co-conspirators at eBay agreed to engage in a harassment campaign targeting a husband and wife in Natick, Mass. for of their roles in publishing a newsletter that reported on issues of interest to eBay sellers. Senior executives at eBay were frustrated with the newsletter’s tone and content, and with the tone and content of comments posted beneath the newsletter’s articles. The harassment campaign arose from communications between those executives and Baugh, who was eBay’s senior security employee.
Baugh and his co-conspirators allegedly executed a three-part harassment campaign intended to intimidate the victims and to change the content of the newsletter’s reporting. The campaign included sending anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home; sending private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content and threatening to visit the victims in Natick; and traveling to Natick to surveil the victims and install a GPS tracking device on their car.
The deliveries ordered to the victims’ home included a book on surviving the death of a spouse, a bloody pig mask, a fetal pig, a funeral wreath and live insects. The harassment also featured Craigslist posts inviting the public for sexual encounters at the victims’ home.
The threatening Twitter messages were written as if they had been sent by eBay sellers who were unhappy with the victims’ coverage in the newsletter. Some of these messages posted the victims’ address and threatened to visit the victims at their home.
On Aug. 15, 2019, Baugh and co-conspirators allegedly traveled from California to Natick to surveil the victims and to install a GPS tracking device on the victims’ car. The victims spotted the surveillance team and contacted local police. After learning of the police’s investigation, Baugh made false statements to police and internal investigators, deleted digital evidence related to the cyberstalking campaign and falsified records intended to throw the police off the trail.
The charges of conspiracy to commit stalking and stalking each provide for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution. The charges of witness tampering and destruction, alteration and fabrication of records in a federal investigation each provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution. The witness tampering charges also carry the potential for forfeiture. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Natick Chief of Police James G. Hicks made the announcement. eBay provided valuable assistance and cooperation with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth B. Kosto, Deputy Chief of Rollins’ Securities, Financial and Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.