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Former eBay Employee Sentenced for Role in Aggressive Cyberstalking Campaign

Former eBay Employee Sentenced for Role in Aggressive Cyberstalking Campaign

The following is a press release published by the Department of Justice US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts:

A former supervisor of security operations for eBay was sentenced today for his role in a cyberstalking campaign targeting a Natick, Mass. couple who published a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.

Philip Cooke, 56, of San Jose, Calif., a former police captain in Santa Clara, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release with the first year spent in home detention. Cooke was also ordered to pay a fine of $15,000 and to perform 100 hours of community service. In October 2020, Cooke pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.

Cooke admitted to conspiring with six other former eBay employees. David Harville, of New York City, and James Baugh, of San Jose, Calif., were charged on June 15, 2020, with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and are pending trial. Stephanie Popp and Veronica Zea, both of San Jose, Calif., pleaded guilty on Oct. 8, 2020 and are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 28, 2021. Stephanie Stockwell, of Redwood City, Calif., and Brian Gilbert, of San Jose, Calif., pleaded guilty on Oct. 29, 2020 and are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 28, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2021, respectively.

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. Among other things, several of the defendants ordered anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home, including a preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse.

As part of the second phase of the campaign, some of the defendants allegedly sent private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content and threatening to visit the victims in Natick. The charging documents allege that Cooke, Baugh, Gilbert and Popp planned these messages to become increasingly disturbing, culminating with “doxing” the victims (i.e., publishing their home address). It is alleged that the same group intended then to have Gilbert, a former Santa Clara police captain, approach the victims with an offer to help stop the harassment that the defendants were secretly causing, in an effort to promote good will towards eBay.

The third phase of the campaign allegedly involved surveilling the victims in their home and community. The victims spotted the surveillance, however, and notified the Natick Police, who began to investigate.

Aware that the police were investigating, the defendants allegedly sought to interfere with the investigation. For example, Cooke and, allegedly, several of the other defendants discussed the possibility of presenting Natick Police with a false investigative lead to keep the police from discovering video evidence that could link some of the deliveries to eBay employees. As the police and eBay’s lawyers continued to investigate, the defendants allegedly deleted digital evidence that showed their involvement, further obstructing what had by then become a federal investigation.

Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; and Natick Police Chief 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 Mendell’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit, is prosecuting the case.

The details contained in charging documents as to defendants Harville and Baugh are allegations. They are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The press release was published to the US Department of Justice website on Tuesday. Please see EcommerceBytes disclosure.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

5 thoughts on “Former eBay Employee Sentenced for Role in Aggressive Cyberstalking Campaign”

  1. The hits just keep on comin….
    Ebay has no place in the American economy.
    It’s evil and encapsulated.
    Crack it and bury it.

  2. That is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Each of those involved should be looking at nothing less than 5 years and preferably 10 years in Federal Prison where they do not get out early due to overcrowding or some other flimsy excuse. What these people did to Ina and David was so much more damaging than 18 months in prison as they had to live for months in fear for their lives. I know they are going to also be financially compensated for what was done to their lives, but a message needs to be sent to all of corporate America that these types of things will no longer be tolerated and if you do commit the crime be ready to serve some real time for it. As long as they continue to get off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, or in Wenigs case, not even being charged while walking away with a $57 million hush payment, nothing will ever be done to curb the way corporate America operates and continues to run the country through their financing of their politicians campaigns so they will always be able to do anything they want.

    If they are not going to punish them with severe prison terms the starting point for any civil suit or settlement needs to start at $1 billion minimum so these companies finally feel the sting of what they have been doing. At least if the penalties start off that severe they will actually have to think twice before committing these types of acts because that will get the stockholders attention immediately !!!!

  3. Shameful and a former police captain! I guess hiring sleeve is how they do business.

  4. As usual, SIK gets it %100 right.

    But in this case – theres just abit more to it then whats being reported by most outlets.

    “Convicted eBay Cyberstalker Blames Alcoholism, Seeks Leniency”

    A former EBay global security manager who admitted joining a bizarre cyberstalking campaign against an online critic blames alcoholism and a culture of heavy drinking at the company for his poor judgment and an incriminating “thumbs up” emoji he texted to a co-conspirator.

    His lawyer said in a court filing that the culture at EBay in 2019 encouraged heaving drinking. Booze was available at a campus bar that opened at 3 p.m. and alcohol was kept in work spaces. “It was typical to take morning shots of alcohol with co-workers,” the lawyer said. EBay didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

    HMMMM – what have WE ALL BEEN SAYING ABOUT WALKERS WEST?????????????

    I swear no one listens to a d@mn word we say. How many of us said that the slavery towards WALKERS is part of the problem??? STEAL AND RIP OFF SELLERS, then go buy a drink at the company bar!

    eBay had a bar on campus that opened at 3:00 p.m., and drinking was part of the culture, with alcohol present throughout the office space where it was typical to take morning shots of alcohol with co-workers,” a sentencing memorandum for 56-year-old defendant Philip Cooke said yesterday. It was filed in US District Court for the District of Massachusetts.”


    MAYBE – they should have concentrated on THIS instead of bothering the Steiners!

    Is eBay the New Drug Dealer?


    Over the past few years, eBay’s customer service department has received complaints about the sale of prescription drugs on their site.

    It just doesnt get better for the San Jose Mafia, does it ?

  5. Personally I have no sympathy for Cooke as he was a former Police captain and I am sure had dealt with alcoholics and the effects of what they do on ones life. Yet he suddenly lacked the ability to say no because he felt the need to belong at Ebay. Even the sentence that the prosecutors recommended was light in my opinion because these people had no qualms making life hell on two people whose only crime was to openly tell the truth of how the company was operating and dealing with their customers. Again, the only way that corporate America is going to get the message that this is not acceptable is for those that participate or authorize these types of ordeals to know that they are going to prison if they are caught, just as they have done to CEO’s and CFO’s under Sarbanes Oxley Act. This law was enacted because of the harm caused to investors due to the actions of the executives at Enron and Worldcom as well as the public accounting firm of Arthur Anderson and carries stiff sentences and fines for those that must now also sign the audited financial statements showing that they are aware of all that is going on in the public company.

    I would love to see the workpapers of Ebays current auditors and see what all they have accidentally discovered and buried due to considering the amounts of money immaterial. I am sure the money spent on Walkers West and alcohol by Ebay is nothing compared to other things that Wenig authorized during his tenure as the CEO. Clarke knew better, especially as a former police captain, than to do what he was doing yet had no problems falling right in with all the others until he was caught and terminated.

    The minimum sentence for those involved in this blatant abuse of power and money because someone had the audacity to print the truth about their company should be at least 5 to 10 years plus a minimum $10 million fine (not counting what will happen in a civil suit) personally so those that get involved suffer just a small amount of angst that they caused the Steiners or anybody else in the future. This is the only way that corporate America is going to be reigned in from abusing those that report on their crimes.

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