E-commerce giant eBay is set to pay a $3 million criminal penalty over allegations of orchestrating a harassment and stalking campaign against a Massachusetts couple, Ina and David Steiner.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy announced the fine Thursday, reported CBS News.

The Steiners, who manage a news website focused on the e-commerce industry, found themselves under threat and subjected to bizarre deliveries in August 2019. The disturbing packages included live spiders, cockroaches, a funeral wreath, and a bloody pig mask.

The $3 million penalty follows revelations that eBay employees engaged in a systematic harassment and intimidation effort against the couple. Levy condemned eBay’s behavior, labeling it “absolutely horrific, criminal conduct” designed to silence the Steiners’ reporting and protect the eBay brand.

The Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against eBay, accusing the company of two counts of interstate stalking, two counts of stalking through electronic communication services, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice. As part of a deferred prosecution agreement, eBay has agreed to remit $3 million.

The company must also retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for three years. This move aims to ensure that eBay’s senior leadership promotes legal “compliance,” establishes “safeguards” against future criminal activity, and communicates a strict stance against “terrorizing individuals and obstructing investigations.”

Former U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling revealed that the plot to target the Steiners, characterized as a “campaign of terror,” originated at eBay in April 2019. CEO Devin Wenig and Chief Communications Officer Steve Wymer were implicated in the planning. Wenig instructed, “Take her down.” Wymer declared, “I want to see ashes. As long as it takes. Whatever it takes.”

The Steiners experienced a relentless onslaught of harassment, including unwanted newsletters and social media attacks. They received explicit materials, threatening voicemails, and even a book about surviving the loss of a spouse, all designed to create fear.

Local police traced the harassment back to eBay employees, leading to the indictment of several individuals, including Veronica Zea, an eBay employee who rented a van used in surveillance. Before Thursday’s agreement, seven of eBay’s Safety and Security unit members pleaded guilty to stalking or cyberstalking charges.

In response to the settlement, eBay’s current CEO, Jamie Iannone, acknowledged the company’s past misconduct, stating, “The company’s conduct in 2019 was wrong and reprehensible.” Iannone highlighted eBay’s cooperation with law enforcement and commitment to enhancing policies, procedures, controls, and training.

The Steiners, who previously filed a civil suit against eBay, expressed satisfaction with the deferred prosecution agreement. They affirmed their commitment to pursuing justice, with a civil trial scheduled for March 3, 2025, stating, “As victims of despicable crimes meant to destroy our lives and our livelihood, we felt it was vital to do everything in our power to make sure such a thing never happened to anyone else.”

Jim Thomas | [email protected]

Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.


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