eBay to pay $3 million fine for ‘campaign of terror’ over harassment of couple: ’Got pig foetus, death threats’

eBay has agreed to pay a $3 million felony fine in relation to a lawsuit on charges of harassment and surveillance in Massachusetts.

Livemint
First Published15 Jan 2024
eBay executives Jim Baugh and David Harville pleaded guilty to executing a campaign to harass David and Ina Steiner that involved sending disturbing home deliveries like cockroaches and a funeral wreath.
eBay executives Jim Baugh and David Harville pleaded guilty to executing a campaign to harass David and Ina Steiner that involved sending disturbing home deliveries like cockroaches and a funeral wreath.(REUTERS)

The e-commerce giant, eBay, has agreed to pay a $3 million felony fine to a couple in relation to lawsuit on charges of harassment and surveillance in United States' Massachusetts, reported CBS News. The US Department of Justice on January 11 pronounced the verdict that eBay had entered into a deferred prosecution agreement after being charged criminally with two counts of stalking through interstate travel, two counts of stalking through electronic communications services, one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstruction of justice.

Also read: Apple to settle lawsuit over iTunes gift card scam. Details here

A US couple, Ina and David Steiner, claimed that in August of 2019 they received strange gifts and threats. These threats included items such as a book on surviving the death of a spouse, real spiders, cockroaches, a death wreath and a gory pig mask.

Other threatening actions included sending public and private tweets and tracking them. Another aspect of the harassment included urging the public to have sex at the victims' houses through Craigslist advertisements.

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US Attorney Joshua S. Levy who was presiding over the lawsuit stated, "eBay engaged in absolutely horrific, criminal conduct. The company's employees and contractors involved in this campaign put the victims through pure hell, in a petrifying campaign aimed at silencing their reporting and protecting the eBay brand."

Also read: Google, accused of tracking private browsing user data in ‘Incognito’ mode, settles $5-billion lawsuit

Joshua S. Levy further added, to “ensure that eBay's senior leadership sets a tone that makes compliance with the law paramount, implements safeguards to prevent future criminal activity, and makes clear to every eBay employee that the idea of terrorizing innocent people and obstructing investigations will not be tolerated,” reported CBS News.

eBay will need to retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for three years under this agreement, as informed by officials.

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Former US Attorney Andrew Lelling termed it a "campaign of terror". Investigations into the case revealed that eBay's security director, Jim Baugh, dispatched a team to Boston that is about 20 miles from where the couple resided.

Last year, Ina Steiner said, "Somebody left a voicemail for us, saying they couldn't fulfil the order for a wet specimen. And David was the one who called. And he said, 'What is a wet specimen?' And, and it was a pig foetus," reported 60 Minutes'.

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According to eBay's admissions, former Senior Director of Safety and Security, Jim Baugh along with six other members of the security team targeted the victim couple from August 5 to 23 in the year 2019. The terror campaign was operated with the aim of scaring the victims and altering their reporting in a newsletter that covered topics relevant to eBay sellers.

Jim Baugh erased digital evidence when he found out about the police investigation into the case and made up statements to the police, according to the Department of Justice. eBay fired all employees who were involved in the harassment case during the course of investigation.

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