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Ex-eBay exec heading to prison for harassing couple behind newsletter

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The eBay app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration photo taken July 13, 2021.
The eBay app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration photo taken July 13, 2021. Photo by Dado Ruvic / Illustration / Files /REUTERS

BOSTON — A former eBay Inc security executive was sentenced on Thursday to 57 months in prison for directing a crusade to harass a Massachusetts couple with threats and disturbing home deliveries after their online newsletter drew the ire of the e-commerce company’s then-CEO.

Jim Baugh, 47, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Patti Saris in Boston for running what she called an extensive harassment campaign fueled by eBay’s “toxic culture” that involved sending the couple cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody Halloween pig mask.

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“It was extreme and outrageous, the kinds of things we don’t see in civilized society,” Saris said.

Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, must also pay a $40,000 fine after pleading guilty to cyberstalking-related charges. “There’s no excuse for what was done,” he said.

Another former executive, David Harville, will be sentenced later Thursday.


Seven former eBay workers overall have been charged over a campaign that targeted David and Ina Steiner, a married couple in Natick, Massachusetts, who produce the newsletter EcommerceBytes.

Prosecutors said senior executives deemed the newsletter critical of eBay, and in August 2019 then-Chief Executive Officer Devin Wenig texted another executive that it was time to “take her down,” referring to Ina Steiner.

Wenig, a former Thomson Reuters executive who stepped down as eBay’s CEO in September 2019, was not charged. A spokesman said he had “absolutely zero knowledge of the actions of Mr. Baugh and the others.”

Overseeing the campaign was Baugh, who previously worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and provided protection to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and, in one instance, now-President Joe Biden when he was vice president.


At Baugh’s direction, the Steiners received anonymous, harassing Twitter messages, bizarre emails, and unwanted home deliveries like spiders and a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, prosecutors said.

They said other eBay employees involved included Harville, who Baugh recruited with a contractor for an “op” to surveil the Steiners and try unsuccessfully to install a GPS on their car.