U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling held a press conference this morning detailing ongoing investigations into a bizarre alleged cyberstalking campaign against a couple based in Natick, Massachusetts. Six former eBay employees face charges in connection with the events targeting a writer and her husband.
The targeted writer published a blog sometimes critical of eBay and other e-commerce sites. In apparent retaliation, executives and other staff members allegedly hatched a targeted harassment campaign that included setting up fake social network accounts and a string of upsetting deliveries that reads like the prop list from a “Hellraiser” sequel.
According to Lelling, “The boxes included: fly larvae and live spiders; a box of live cockroaches; a sympathy wreath on the occasion of a dead loved one; a book of advice on how to survive the death of a spouse; pornography mailed to their neighbors but in the couple’s names; a Halloween mask featuring the face of a bloody pig and a pig fetus that was ordered but after an inquiry from the supplier thankfully was never sent.”
Two former executives were charged this morning, along with four other employees; eBay acknowledged the situation in a press release this morning. The company was quick to explain that neither it nor any current employees have been indicted. Those involved have since been fired. EBay says it held off on addressing the situation publicly, so as to not interfere with the ongoing investigation.
From Lelling’s description, however, the situation appears to go even higher. He explained that the actions were not rogue. Instead, “the directive to do something about this goes pretty high up the chain within eBay.”
In fact, the situation appears to have played a role in Devin Wenig’s decision to step down from the company back in September. While not disclosed in the original announcement for the reasons mentioned above, eBay notes:
The Company noted that the internal investigation also examined what role, if any, the Company’s CEO at the time of the incident, Devin Wenig, may have had in this matter. The internal investigation found that, while Mr. Wenig’s communications were inappropriate, there was no evidence that he knew in advance about or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband. However, as the Company previously announced, there were a number of considerations leading to his departure from the Company.