Conspiracy at eBay: The Disturbing Saga of Harassment, Stalking, and Cover-ups

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USA v. eBay Court Filing, retrieved on January 11, 2024, is part of HackerNoon’s Legal PDF Series. You can jump to any part in this filing here. This is part 6 of 12.

The Harassment and Intimidation Campaign

28. On or about August 1, 2019, the New York Times reported that eBay had accused Amazon in a lawsuit of unlawfully poaching eBay sellers to Amazon's online marketplace.

29. That day, at approximately 1 :46 p.m. (EDT), Ina Steiner posted an article on EcommerceBytes under the headline, "eBay RJCO Lawsuit Meant to Curb Seller Exodus to Amazon?" She wrote: "[Executive] 1 has been unable to stop a decline in market sales, but trying to dissuade sellers from turning to Amazon (and trying to get Amazon to stop recruiting sellers) may not be the best tactic."

30. At approximately 2: 19 p.m. (EDT), Executive 1 texted Executive 2: "Ina is out with a hot piece on the litigation. If we are ever going to take her down is the time."

31. Executive 2 responded at approximately 2:36 p.m. (EDT): "On it."

32. As set forth below, a series of text messages followed between Executive 2 and Baugh, beginning with Executive 2's passing along of Executive l's suggestion that "we ... take her down":


33. Executive 2 and Baugh's August 1, 2019 conversation continued by text, with Baugh committing to put in motion a "plan B" and Executive 2 committing to "embrace managing any bad fall out."


34. Baugh continued, stating falsely that Fidomaster-whom he refe1nd to as the "unsuck idiot"-was David Steiner "or [an]other close associate" off Ina Steiner's:


35. Baugh concluded the August 1 exchange with Executive 2 as follows:


36. On or about August 6, 2019, an eBay seller contacted Executive 1 to complain about @unsuckebay, one of the Twitter accounts controlled by Fidomaster. The seller's complaint led Executive 2, Executive 1, Baugh, and eBay's general counsel to communicate about eBay's unsuccessful effo1ts to have the Twitter account shut down.

37. Executive 2's email concluded: "I am utterly vexed by this! This twitter account [Fidomaster] dominates our social narrative with his CONSTANT obsession with trolling us. It's more than annoying, it's very damaging."

38. The email noted that Fidomaster and "the eCom[m]ercebytes gal"-a reference to Ina Steiner- were "infatuated with eBay" and "have seemingly dedicated their Jives to erroneously trashing us as a way to build their own brand-or even build a business." It continued, "This issue gives me ulcers, harms employee moral, and trickles into everything about our brand. I genuinely believe these people are acting out of malice and ANYTHING we can do to solve it should be explored. 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."

39. On or about August 7, 2019, at 4:59 p.m. (PDT), Baugh asked Executive 2 by message, "lf l can neutralize Ina's website in two weeks or less, does that work for you?" Within minutes, Executive 2 responded: "I want to see ashes. As long as it takes. Whatever it takes."

40. After receiving Executive 2's text messages and emails about the Steiners, EcommerceBytes, and Fidomaster, Baugh shared them with, among others, Harville, Gilbert, Cooke, Popp, Stockwell, and Zea.

41. Beginning on or about August 5, 2019 and continuing through at least September 6, 2019, Baugh, Harville, Gilbert, Cooke, Popp, Stockwell, and Zea (together "the Individual Defendants") worked together to harass and intimidate the Steiners, and to place them under surveillance with.the intent to harass and intimidate them, through repeated and hostile Twitter messages, deliveries of unwanted-and in some instances disturbing-items to the Steiners' home, and travel to Massachusetts to conduct physical surveillance. The Individual Defendants' conduct caused, attempted to cause, and would reasonably have been expected to cause substantial emotional distress to the Steiners.

42. The purposes of the harassment campaign were, among other things, to distract the Steiners from publishing EcommerceBytes, to alter the website's coverage of eBay, and to gather information that the Individual Defendants could use to discredit the Steiners and EcomrnerceBytes.

43. The Individual Defendants took steps to conceal their harassment campaign from eBay investigators and state and federal authorities, by, among other things, using non-eBay electronic communications platforms, billing expenses related to the campaign to an outside contractor, monitoring law enforcement communications, forging records, lying to investigators, and destroying evidence.

44. Among the manner and means by which Individual Defendants carried out the harassment campaign were the following:

a. Creating Twitter accounts in false names that featured ominous profile photos.

b. Using these Twitter accounts to send threatening private direct messages ("DMs") to Ina Steiner about her, David Steiner, and EcommerceBytes.

c. Publicly posting the Steiners' home address on Twitter, while suggesting in threatening messages that eBay sellers who were angry about EcommcerceBytes' coverage were going to visit the Steiners' home.

d. Ordering unwanted and scary items and services to the Steiners' home, and ordering items intended to embarrass the Steiners to their neighbors' addresses.

e. Posting online advertisements for fictitious events at the Steiners' home, including sexual encounters, to encourage strangers to visit them there.

f. Traveling to Natick to install a GPS device on the Steiners' car, and to surveil the Steiners in their home and in their community.

g. Monitoring law enforcement communications to avoid detection.

h. Establishing false cover stories for the surveillance trip, including that the coconspirators were investigating the Steiners for threatening Executive 1.

i. Continuing surveillance, even after the Steiners had detected it, with the purpose of intimidating them.

J. Disguising their roles in the conspiracy by harassing and intimidating the Steiners using prepaid cell phones and laptops, VPN services, overseas email accounts, and prepaid debit cards purchased with cash.

k. Offering the Steiners assistance with the very harassment they were committing, to earn the Steiners' good will ("the White Knight Strategy").

I. Making false and misleading statements to NPD personnel who were investigating the threatening communications, harassing deliveries, and surveillance of the Steiners.

m. Communicating by WhatsApp regarding how to harass the Steiners and how to respond to the NPD investigation.

n. Creating a "dossier" of their own threats to the Steiners, which they planned to show to the NPD as proof that Zea and Harville were in Massachusetts investigating the harassment of the Steiners (purportedly by third parties).

o. Exchanging ideas about how best to thwart the NPD investigation, including creating false suspects, continuing the harassing deliveries, fabricating cover stories, and intervening with any San Jose area police that the NPD contacted to further its investigation.

p. Lying to eBay investigators who were responding to NPD requests for eBay's assistance.

q. Exchanging ideas about how best to thwart eBay's internal investigation.

r. Deleting the contents of computers, cell phones, and social media accounts that evidenced the harassment and intimidation campaign and the defendants' and their coconspirators' efforts to obstruct the NPD investigation.

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