Watch CBS News

Couple harassed by former eBay employees sues company and former executives

A Massachusetts couple subjected to threats, mailed packages and other bizarre harassment from former employees of eBay filed a lawsuit against the company, its former employees and former CEO Devin Wenig on Wednesday.

David and Ina Steiner, who run the website EcommerceBytes, say in their lawsuit filed in a Boston federal court that the company engaged in a conspiracy to "intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence them" to "stifle their reporting on eBay."

The Natick residents say they were subjected to cyberstalking, death threats, bizarre deliveries and in-person surveillance from company workers. They're seeking damages to be awarded by a jury.

"This has been an unbelievably difficult ordeal for my wife and I," David Steiner said in a statement Wednesday. "Never did we imagine doing our jobs as journalists would lead to this. We want to protect the rights of reporters and their freedom of the press. We have endured enormous cruelty and abuse and feared for our lives. If this behavior can happen to us, it can happen to anyone."

Spokespersons for eBay didn't respond to an email seeking comment from the Associated Press.

Ex-eBay employees charged with mailing spiders, cockroaches and pig mask to critics 01:15

According to federal prosecutors, eBay executives became upset with negative coverage of the company on the EcommerceBytes website, and became convinced that some anonymous commenters on the blog were colluding with the Steiners. Executives texted among themselves about the need to "take her down" and "burn her to the ground."

The harassment campaign included anonymous deliveries of live cockroaches and spiders, a funeral wreath, and a bloody pig face Halloween mask to the couple's home, according to federal prosecutors. The employees also sent pornographic magazines with the husband's name on them to a neighbor's house and planned to break into the couple's garage to install a GPS device on their car.

Thanks to these actions, the Steiners "experience[d] debilitating fear, were unable to sleep and lived in terror that they may be killed," their lawsuit alleges.

Several former eBay employees were charged last June for their roles in the harassment campaign. At least five have already pleaded guilty.

"This was a determined, systematic effort by senior employees of a major company to destroy the lives of a couple in Natick all because they published content that company executives didn't like," then-U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said at the time.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.