When former eBay executive James Baugh of San Jose first launched the harassment campaign against a couple publishing a newsletter with content critical of the e-commerce giant, Baugh suggested to his operatives that they send the pair “scary masks, live insects, or embarrassing items” , such as pornography and strippers,” according to an FBI affidavit. Minus the strippers, that’s what they sent — and more.
Baugh, 47, pleaded guilty Monday to five counts of stalking, two counts of witness tampering and two counts of destruction, alteration and falsification of records in a federal investigation. His sentencing in federal court in Massachusetts is scheduled for Sept. 29. He was one of seven former eBay employees — including two former Santa Clara Police Department captains — charged with criminal offenses in relation to the campaign.
The Boston-area married couple, Ina and David Steiner, who published an online shopping newsletter that contained reports and comments critical of eBay, were “terrified” and suffered “substantial emotional distress” from the year-long harassment campaign, the affidavit said.
At the initial meeting in a room at eBay’s San Jose headquarters to plan the campaign against the couple, Baugh was joined by Stephanie Popp of San Jose, eBay’s senior manager of Global Intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell of Redwood City, an eBay intelligence analyst; Veronica Zea of Santa Clara, an intelligence analyst on contract with eBay, and three other intelligence analysts, according to the affidavit.
Baugh, formerly eBay’s senior director of safety and security, provided additional guidance to the operatives, screening a clip from a 1988 movie called Johnny Be Good, in which two friends arrange the delivery to their football coach’s home of hundreds of dollars in pizzas, an elephant, a male stripper, an exterminator and Hare Krishna missionaries, the affidavit said.
Starting in August 2019, Baugh’s team sent the Steiners a preserved fetal pig, a Halloween mask of a bloody pig face, a how-to book on surviving a spouse’s death, a funeral wreath, pizzas — and live maggots, spiders and cockroaches, according to to the affidavit.
That same month, “Hustler: Barely Legal” pornographic magazines arrived at the homes of two of the couple’s neighbors, addressed to David Steiner, according to the affidavit. A Craigslist ad invited “singles/couples/swingers” and local college students to the Steiners’ address for free booze and “a good time,” and another Craigslist ad soon after also gave the couple’s address, inviting guests for threesomes and bondage, according to to the affidavit. The harassment also included vulgar, abusive and threatening posts and messages on Twitter, the affidavit said.
Baugh and others charged in the conspiracy made several trips to Natick, Massachusetts, to surveil the Steiners, buying a GPS tracking device they planned to hide on their car, with Baugh practicing installing it on a similar vehicle, according to the affidavit, which indicates the device was never planted because the couple spotted the surveillance and contacted police.
Although the affidavit refers to eBay “Executive 1” and “Executive 2” as members of eBay’s executive leadership team, whose text messages — sent before the harassment campaign — included statements such as “take her down” with regard to Ina Steiner, neither executive was charged. Court documents indicate Executive 1 was former eBay CEO Devin Wenig and Executive 2 was his communications head Steve Wymer, Recode reported in 2020. Wenig, who resigned from eBay in September 2019, told Recode the texts had been “wildly misinterpreted and taken completely out of context in some media reports” and that he had given “no direction” or “tacit approval” for the campaign . Wymer told Recode, “I would never condone or participate in any such activity.” eBay did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday about Baugh’s guilty plea and any actions it took regarding Executives 1 and 2.
The Steiners, who produced the newsletter EcommerceBytes with Ina as reporter and editor and David as publisher, have sued eBay, Baugh and the six other former eBay employees, along with Wenig and Wymer, alleging the campaign left them “fearing for their lives.” Wymer, who left eBay in 2019, had been terminated by the company, according to the suit in Massachusetts federal court. The Steiners are seeking unspecified damages.