BOSTON (Reuters) - Two former eBay Inc employees pleaded guilty on Thursday to participating in a cyber stalking campaign against a Massachusetts couple whose online newsletter was viewed by top executives as critical of the e-commerce company.
Federal prosecutors in Boston said former eBay employees Stephanie Stockwell and Brian Gilbert and others harassed the couple through Twitter and sent them disturbing packages like a bloody Halloween pig mask and live spiders and cockroaches during the August 2019 campaign.
They pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit cyber stalking and conspiring to tamper with a witness, becoming the latest ex-members of eBay’s security and global intelligence team to admit wrongdoing. Three other former employees have also pleaded guilty.
“I made a mistake, and I need to own up to it,” Gilbert said during a hearing held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prosecutors agreed to recommend a 24-month prison sentence for Stockwell, the former manager of eBay’s global intelligence center, and no more than 37 months for Gilbert, a former senior manager of special operations for its global security team.
They are among seven defendants, including onetime eBay security executives James Baugh and David Harville, who prosecutors said targeted the couple in Natick, Massachusetts, with threatening messages and unwanted deliveries.
Prosecutors said the defendants also conducted covert surveillance in a bid to terrorize the couple and deter them from criticizing eBay.
They did so after two top executives expressed frustration with the newsletter, EcommerceBytes. The executives included former Chief Executive Devin Wenig, who a person familiar with the matter has said is the “Executive 1” identified in court papers.
Wenig, a former executive of Thomson Reuters, has not been charged and has denied knowing about the scheme. Wenig’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Aurora Ellis
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.