Over the years, we have received our fair share of lawyer’s letters and threatening phone calls.
It comes with the territory.
We have never, ever received a package containing live cockroaches and spiders, though, with that dubious honour belonging to a Boston, Massachusetts couple who ran a news site that was critical of eBay.
Six former eBay employees are now facing charges that include cyberstalking and tampering with evidence, and the case against them is a truly unique one.
This from CNN:
The former employees are accused of sending threatening messages to the couple, as well as unsolicited packages including a mask meant to look like a bloody pig [below], fly larvae, live spiders and a box of cockroaches.
According to court documents, they also posted the couple’s address to Craigslist and invited singles, couples and swingers to knock on their door “any time of day or night.”
Prosecutors also accused several of the former employees of flying from California to the couple’s home in Massachusetts to “surveil” them, and even of attempting to break into their garage to install a GPS tracker on their vehicle.
Some of the PR drops to our office leave great room for improvement, but that above really is next-level stuff.
The couple’s news site had written articles critical of eBay, as well as Amazon, and prosecutors say the harassment was aimed at preventing further negative coverage of eBay.
The same criminal complaint said the targetted harassment was ordered after eBay executives were unhappy with the site’s coverage, and an unnamed executive texted, among other messages, “We are going to crush this lady.”
More on those tactics via WIRED:
The harassment campaign was planned in a series of meetings, prosecutors say. In one, Baugh [the company’s senior director of safety and security at the time] showed the assembled team a clip, according to a confidential witness cited in the complaint, of the movie Johnny Be Good, in which pranksters deliver increasingly absurd and unwelcome items to people’s homes.
A brainstorm allegedly followed: What could they send to their victims that would terrify them? In a separate meeting, the complaint says, Baugh and a few others charted out a complementary social media strategy: They would send anonymous tweets and DMs to the couple, pretending to be angry eBay sellers and claiming responsibility for the deliveries.
Along with the unwanted packages with animals, both dead and alive, the couple also received a book, Grief Diaries: Surviving the Loss of a Spouse, and neighbours received various adult magazines, with the name of the husband on the order.
In addition, a local florist delivered a funeral wreath to the couples’ home.
Examples of the harassment go on and on – read more about them here.
The six former eBay employees involved all face charges of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses:
Each charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, and restitution.
Here’s hoping they’re hit with the full might of the law.
Also, I’m not sure I’ll ever open another PR product drop without worrying about live critters inside.
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