Enlarge / A bloody pig masks mailed to cyberstalking victims by then-eBay staff.

A former eBay safety official who pleaded responsible for his position in a cyberstalking conspiracy has requested for leniency in sentencing whereas blaming his actions partly on a “ingesting tradition” at eBay that contributed to his alcoholism.

“eBay had a bar on campus that opened at 3:00 p.m., and ingesting was a part of the tradition, with alcohol current all through the workplace house the place it was typical to take morning photographs of alcohol with co-workers,” a sentencing memorandum for 56-year-old defendant Philip Cooke mentioned yesterday. It was filed in US District Court docket for the District of Massachusetts.

Cooke was senior supervisor of safety operations for eBay’s International Safety Crew, making an annual wage of $185,000, when he performed a task within the harassment of a couple that operated a information web site. The harassment—in response to information protection that eBay executives didn’t like—concerned sending threatening messages and deliveries of stay cockroaches, a funeral wreath, and a bloody pig masks to the couple’s house in Natick, Massachusetts. Cooke was promoted by eBay to Director of Safety Operations and given a increase to $205,000 in June 2020, about 10 months after the cyberstalking marketing campaign started and simply earlier than it turned public.

Ex-CEO amongst defendants in go well with in opposition to eBay

Along with legal prices, Cooke is without doubt one of the defendants in a lawsuit filed by the harassment victims right now. Ina and David Steiner of Natick, who run information web site EcommerceBytes, filed the complaint in opposition to eBay and the alleged perpetrators of the cyberstalking in the identical US District Court docket. Defendants embrace eBay itself, former eBay CEO Devin Wenig; former eBay Chief Communications Officer Steven Wymer; and Progressive F.O.R.C.E Ideas (PFC), a safety agency that employed Cooke as a contractor earlier than he turned a full-time eBay worker.

“eBay… engaged in a coordinated effort to intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence the Steiners, with the intention to stifle their reporting on eBay,” the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit mentioned that Wenig and Wymer:

offered the opposite Defendants with carte blanche authority to terminate the reporting of the Steiners by no matter means essential, with Defendant Wymer expressing “… I need to see ashes. So long as it takes. No matter it takes.” Defendant Wymer promised the defendants he would “embrace managing any dangerous fallout” if the plan went south, additional directing, “We have to STOP her.” The entire horrific, vicious and sickening conduct that adopted was dedicated by staff of eBay and PFC, whereas performing within the scope of their employment underneath the authority of and for the advantage of eBay and PFC.

Wenig and Wymer weren’t hit with legal prices when different eBay staff had been arrested and charged final yr.

The Steiners’ lawsuit mentioned:

Beginning with a web-based intimidation marketing campaign, the defendants taunted Ina Steiner utilizing a phony Twitter deal with pretending to be an eBay vendor, and immediately threatened her to cease reporting on eBay. The web assaults continued to escalate into threatening and disturbing bundle deliveries, which included stay spiders, cockroaches, a bloody pig masks, a funeral wreath, and a guide entitled “Grief Diaries: Surviving Lack of a Partner” despatched on to David Steiner. These messages and deliveries usually had been accompanied by ominous simultaneous Twitter messages corresponding to “do I’ve your consideration now, cunt?” Shockingly graphic and vulgar messages, corresponding to “U are sick motha fuckers…and each one will kno! U fuckin cunt ass bitch!” paired with taunting emails and deliveries, together with pornography and “Hustler: Barely Authorized” magazines despatched to the Steiner’s neighbors’ house in David Steiner’s title, to defame the Steiners and try and shame them and tarnish their fame inside their neighborhood.

A number of the conspirators traveled from California to Massachusetts and, amongst different issues, “menacingly stalked and tailed the Steiners in a black van and different rental autos, repeatedly circling the block, monitoring their each transfer, and following David Steiner when he left the residence. The defendants even went so far as to aim to interrupt into the Steiner storage with the intention to set up a GPS monitoring machine on their automobile,” the lawsuit mentioned.

eBay issued a statement final yr that mentioned an “inside investigation discovered that, whereas Mr. Wenig’s communications had been inappropriate, there was no proof that he knew upfront about or approved the actions that had been later directed towards the blogger and her husband.”

eBay offered a press release to Ars right now, saying, “The misconduct of those former staff was improper, and we’ll do what’s honest and applicable to attempt to deal with what the Steiners went by. The occasions from 2019 ought to by no means have occurred, and as eBay expressed to the Steiners, we’re very sorry for what they endured. As famous by the US Legal professional’s Workplace when this matter first got here to gentle, eBay cooperated totally with the federal government’s investigation, noting that ‘eBay was extraordinarily cooperative with the investigation in serving to state and federal authorities determine what had occurred and acquire proof of the crime.'”

eBay “tradition” exacerbated alcohol downside

Cooke’s sentencing memorandum quotes his spouse as saying {that a} “ingesting tradition at eBay” exacerbated an alcohol abuse downside that acquired worse after Cooke retired from a profession as a captain within the Santa Clara Police Division. Cooke went to work for Progressive F.O.R.C.E Ideas a couple of yr after retiring from police work, and “whereas the job offered a spot to go, a function, and new colleagues, it didn’t resolve his ingesting downside.” After taking a full-time job at eBay in April 2019, Cooke “continued to drink closely, particularly together with his pals and colleagues.” That was a number of months earlier than the cyberstalking marketing campaign started.

“When he returned to eBay as an worker, Phil’s ingesting downside turned even worse,” his spouse mentioned within the memorandum. “I keep in mind one time Phil did not come house from work till round 4am the next day. Once I requested him the place he had been, he mentioned he closed down a bar together with his coworkers and slept in his automobile for a number of hours till he felt secure to drive house. I knew Phil and his coworkers had a liquor cupboard at work, however what I did not know till later was they had been taking photographs of alcohol within the morning.”

Cooke’s submitting requested the court docket for a sentence of “house confinement for no matter interval the Court docket believes is important, 12 months supervised launch, a $200 particular evaluation, no restitution (as none has been requested), and no advantageous.”

The submitting went on:

Because of this prosecution, Mr. Cooke has endured intensive punishment already… He misplaced a job he loved, was devastated by the frustration he prompted his household, and was humiliated in his neighborhood—a neighborhood he honorably and faithfully served [as a police officer] for 30 years. He has accepted full accountability for his misconduct, could be very remorseful for his dangerous selections, and needs to do no matter it takes to place his life proper. Since accepting accountability, he has addressed his substance abuse situation, remained sober, and efficiently educated to facilitate conferences in a substance abuse program in California for each different substance abusers and in addition for his or her pals and households.

The doc downplays Cooke’s position within the conspiracy, saying that he did not journey to Massachusetts and that warned fellow staff in opposition to a few of the worst components of the plan. The submitting mentioned:

Whereas Mr. Cooke joined the plan to have interaction in a “white knight technique” to ship harassing and nameless Twitter messages to melt up the victims for eBay’s safety staff’s help, and considered no less than some draft messages in reference to that scheme, he was not personally concerned in two or extra separate “situations” of harassing the identical sufferer. His involvement is extra pretty described as a single “course of conduct” or “a sample of conduct comprised of two or extra acts evidencing a continuity of function sample of exercise.”

Responsible pleas by 5 ex-eBay staff

Cooke pleaded responsible in October 2020 to 1 rely of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and one rely of conspiracy to commit witness tampering. Every cost carries a most sentence of 5 years in jail, three years of supervised launch, a advantageous of as much as $250,000, and restitution.

4 different former eBay safety staff pleaded guilty in October 2020. They’re Brian Gilbert, former senior supervisor of particular operations for eBay’s International Safety Crew; Stephanie Stockwell, former supervisor of eBay’s International Intelligence Middle; Stephanie Popp, eBay’s former senior supervisor of International Intelligence; and Veronica Zea, a former eBay contractor who was an intelligence analyst in eBay International Intelligence. Like Cooke, all 4 pleaded responsible to prices of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and are ready to be sentenced.

Whereas the harassment case entails solely eBay, the sentencing memorandum famous an identical ingesting tradition at Fb.

“I didn’t know concerning the ingesting tradition at eBay and Fb,” Cooke’s spouse mentioned in a press release quoted within the memorandum. “First, he labored as a contractor for eBay which has a bar on campus the place he would drink together with his coworkers. They might usually go away that bar and go over to an area bar/restaurant and proceed ingesting till late at night time. Then he began working at Fb the place they allowed ingesting through the day and would usually have free alcohol out there.”

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