Former eBay supervisor jailed for cyber-stalking critics

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A former eBay security supervisor has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for cyber-stalking a couple critical of the company.

The Massachusetts couple wrote and published an online newsletter that covered eBay and other companies.

The pair received “disturbing” packages – including a preserved pig fetus and a book on dealing with the loss of a spouse.

Former police captain Philip Cooke, 56, pleaded guilty to offences last year.

‘Horrific behaviour’

Six other former eBay employees face similar charges.

Four have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Cooke told the court he should have prevented “horrific behaviour to please the boss”.

“It is crystal clear this was all wrong from start to finish,” he said.

‘Almost unfathomable’

Judge Allison Burroughs said the harassment had been “abominable”.

“It’s almost unfathomable to me,” she said.

“I’m not sure if I saw it on television I would find it believable.”

Cooke’s sentence, for conspiracy to commit cyber-stalking and tamper with witnesses, includes:

  • three years of supervised release after his prison term – with the first year in home detention
  • a $15,000 (£10,800) fine
  • 100 hours’ community service.

The harassment was carefully planned in three stages, according to the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

In the first, disturbing packages were sent to the couple, including live cockroaches and a bloody pig mask.

The second phase involved some of the accused sending Twitter messages to the pair, complaining about the newsletter and saying they would visit the couple at home.

‘Too afraid’

The DoJ alleged they “planned these messages to become increasingly disturbing, culminating with ‘doxing’ the victims (ie publishing their home address)”.

It also said the plan had included an offer of “help” from the eBay team to solve the problem they themselves had been creating, “in an effort to promote good will towards eBay”.

The third phase, which involved surveillance of the couple at their home, was detected by the victims, who contacted police.

“We were terrified,” the couple told the court, adding they had been too afraid to leave their home.

Internal investigation

When the harassment campaign first became public, eBay said it “cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities throughout the process”.

“EBay does not tolerate this kind of behaviour,” it said.

“EBay apologises to the affected individuals and is sorry that they were subjected to this.

“EBay holds its employees to high standards of conduct and ethics and will continue to take appropriate action to ensure these standards are followed.”

The employees in question were fired after eBay conducted its own internal investigation.

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