eBay’s former public relations chief threatened to “crush” a woman who was “psychologically terrorised” by a campaign of harassment after he became infuriated by negative coverage of the company on her blog.
Steven Wymer is the previously unnamed “Executive 2” in a federal indictment issued on Monday, according to Bloomberg, in which six employees are accused of “terrorising” a middle-aged couple after taking offence to their newsletter.
Mr Wymer, a former Nextdoor employee, worked at eBay for nine months in 2019 during which employees allegedly harassed the unnamed couple from Natick, Massachusetts.
They are alleged to have sent, among other “disturbing” packages, a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloodied pig mask, attempting to make it look like they were from disgruntled eBay sellers who took offence to the couple’s newsletter.
Mr Wymer, who has not been charged with any crime, was fired by eBay last year after an internal investigation into the allegations. He has not responded to a request for comment.
Mr Wymer is alleged to have texted former eBay boss Devin Wenig in April 2019 saying, “We are going to crush this lady,” referencing the female writer.
The message included a link to the couple’s newsletter’s coverage of Mr Wenig’s compensation, prosecutors claimed.
Mr Wenig, who is referred to as “Executive 1” in the complaint, and is also not charged with any crime, later told Mr Wymer to “take her down”.
James Baugh, 45, of San Jose, California, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, and David Harville, 48, of New York City, eBay’s former director of global resiliency, were arrested on Monday and charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Four additional employees are also charged with the same crimes.
Mr Wymer is alleged to have written to Mr Baugh after the couple published a newsletter on August 1 last year which discussed a recent lawsuit filed by eBay.
“I am utterly vexed by this! I genuinely believe these people are acting out of malice and ANYTHING we can do to solve it should be explored,” the note stated.
“Somewhere, at some point, someone chose to let this slide. It has grown to a point that is absolutely unacceptable.
“It’s the ‘blind eye toward graffiti that turns into mayhem’ syndrome and I’m sick about it. Whatever. It. Takes.”
The alleged harassment of the couple, who have not been named, began on August 7, when the wife received a Twitter message from an account she did not recognise.
Over the next week, they began receiving home deliveries including a box of live cockroaches and a book on how to grieve the loss of a spouse. Their neighbours were sent pornography in their name.
The employees are also accused of posting a fake advert on digital message board Craigslist with the couple’s address inviting swingers to join sex parties in their home every evening from 10pm, and setting up social media accounts to send threatening messages.
On August 15, employees allegedly travelled to the couple’s home with a plan to install a GPS tracker on the couple’s car, but were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Mr Gilbert contacted the wife to claim he was concerned about the harassment and see if there was anything he could do to help, in an alleged attempt to solicit positive coverage of eBay.
Mr Gilbert identified himself as an eBay employee and “claimed that the company had seen and was concerned by the online harassment of the victims, and offered eBay’s help,” the complaint said.
The police began investigating after the couple made a complaint. Prosecutors allege that the defendants attempted to delete evidence and mislead eBay’s lawyers and police about their involvement.
eBay fired all involved employees, including Mr Wymer, in September 2019 and investigated whether chief executive Devin Wenig, who was also fired in September 2019, played a role in the alleged plot.
A spokesman said: “The internal investigation found that, while Mr Wenig’s communications were inappropriate, there was no evidence that he knew in advance about or authorised 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.”