Former eBay Employee Sentenced for Aggressive Cyberstalking Campaign

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

BOSTON – A former intelligence analyst for eBay, Inc. was sentenced today for her role in a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.

Veronica Zea, 28, of San Jose, Calif., a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in eBay’s Global Intelligence Center (GIC), was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge William G. Young to two years’ probation with her first year to be served in home confinement and a $5,000 fine. In October 2020, Zea pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.

On Sept. 29, 2022, co-conspirator James Baugh was sentenced to 57 months in prison, two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a fine of $40,000. Also on Sept. 29, 2022, co-conspirator David Harville was sentenced to two years in prison, two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a fine of $20,000. Co-conspirators and former eBay employees Philip Cooke, Stephanie Popp, Stephanie Stockwell and Brian Gilbert previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy to cyberstalk the victims. Cooke was sentenced in July 2021 to 18 months in prison. On Oct. 11, 2022, Popp was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and Stockwell was sentenced to two years of probation with a year of home confinement. Gilbert is awaiting sentencing.

Between approximately Aug. 5, 2019 and Sept. 6, 2019, Zea and her co-conspirators at eBay agreed to engage in a harassment campaign targeting a husband and wife in Natick, Mass. for their roles in publishing a newsletter that reported on issues of interest to eBay sellers. Senior executives at eBay were frustrated with the newsletter’s tone and content as well as the substance of comments posted beneath the newsletter’s articles. The harassment campaign arose from communications between those senior executives and Baugh, who was eBay’s senior security employee.                    

Zea and her co-conspirators executed a three-part harassment campaign intended to intimidate the victims and to influence their reporting about eBay. The campaign included sending anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home; sending private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content; threats to visit the victims in Natick; and traveling to Natick to surveil the victims and installing a GPS tracking device on their car.

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, a funeral wreath, a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, and pornography addressed to the victims but delivered to their neighbor’s homes. Zea used cash to purchase prepaid debit cards for use in the campaign and ordered insects to the victims’ home.

As part of the second phase of the campaign, Zea’s co-conspirators sent public tweets and private threatening Twitter messages that were written as if they had been sent by eBay sellers who were unhappy with the victims’ coverage in the newsletter. Some of these messages posted the victims’ address and threatened to visit them at their home.

The third phase of the campaign involved covertly surveilling the victims in their home and community. On Aug. 15, 2019, Zea travelled from California to Natick with Baugh and Harville to surveil the victims and to install a GPS tracking device on the victims’ car. Zea and Harville registered for a software development conference to explain the trip to Boston. The victims spotted the surveillance team and contacted local police. At Baugh’s direction, Zea also lied to an eBay investigator who was responding to the Natick Police’s request for assistance.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division; and Natick Police Chief James G. Hicks made the announcement today. eBay provided valuable assistance and cooperation with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth B. Kosto, Deputy Chief of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.