Two Former eBay Employees Plead Guilty to Aggressive Cyberstalking Campaign Targeting Natick Couple
BOSTON – Two former employees of eBay, Inc. pleaded guilty today to their roles in a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.
Brian Gilbert, 52, of San Jose, Calif., a former Senior Manager of Special Operations for eBay’s Global Security Team, and Stephanie Stockwell, 26, of Redwood City, Calif., the former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young scheduled sentencing for Stockwell on March 11, 2021, and for Gilbert on May 6, 2021.
On Oct. 8, 2020, co-defendants Stephanie Popp, 32, and Veronica Zea, 26, pleaded guilty to the same charges and are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 25, 2021. On Oct. 27, 2020, co-conspirator Philip Cooke, 55, pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 24, 2021.
Former eBay executives, James Baugh, 45, and David Harville, 48, were arrested and charged on June 15, 2020.
According to the charging documents, the victims of the cyberstalking campaign were a Natick couple who are the editor and publisher of an online newsletter that covers ecommerce companies, including eBay. Members of eBay’s executive leadership team followed the newsletter’s posts, often taking issue with its content and the anonymous comments underneath the editor’s stories.
It is alleged that in August 2019, the defendants executed a three-part harassment campaign against the Natick couple, which included the defendants 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.
In connection with his plea today, Gilbert admitted to drafting threatening Twitter messages for Popp to send and planning the surveillance trip with various co-defendants. Gilbert also proposed bringing a dossier of documents to the Natick Police Department (NPD) – whom the victims had involved – that would make the victims “look crazy” and contacting the victims to offer help with the threatening messages that the defendants had sent. Lastly, Gilbert made false statements to the NPD about Zea and Harville’s reason for being in Boston.
Stockwell admitted to, at Baugh’s direction, purchasing a laptop for use in harassing the victims, and using an anonymous email account to order online live spiders and a prepaid debit card to purchase a late-night pizza delivery to the victims’ home. Stockwell also prepared an eBay “Person of Interest” report for the Bay Area—a fictions list of potential suspects to provide to the NPD to deflect the police from suspecting that eBay employees were actually harassing the victims.
The charges of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses each carry a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; 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 today. eBay provided valuable assistance and cooperation with the federal investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth B. Kosto, Deputy Chief of Lelling’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.