Former California police captain pleads guilty in eBay cyberstalking case

Nate Raymond
·2-min read

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) - A former police captain who went on to work for eBay Inc pleaded guilty on Tuesday to participating in a cyberstalking campaign against a Massachusetts couple whose online newsletter was viewed as critical of the e-commerce company.

Federal prosecutors in Boston said Philip Cooke, a former supervisor of security operations at eBay's European and Asian offices, and other employees harassed the couple through Twitter and sent them disturbing packages like a bloody Halloween pig mask.

The 55-year-old, who was previously a police captain in Santa Clara, California, was the third former eBay employee to plead guilty in the case. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit cyberstalking and conspiring to tamper with a witness.

Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a 30-month prison sentence for Cooke when he is later sentenced.

He is among seven defendants, including onetime eBay security executives James Baugh and David Harville, who prosecutors said targeted the couple in Natick, Massachusetts, with threatening messages and unwanted deliveries such as a box of live cockroaches and a funeral wreath.

Prosecutors said the defendants also sent pornography in the couple’s name to neighbors and conducted covert surveillance in a bid to terrorize the couple and deter them from criticizing eBay.

They did so after two top executives expressed frustration with the newsletter, EcommerceBytes. The executives included former Chief Executive Devin Wenig, who a person familiar with the matter has said is the "Executive 1" identified in court papers.

Prosecutors said Wenig texted the other executive after the newsletter's editor published an article about eBay, saying it was time to "take her down."

Wenig has not been charged and has denied knowing about the scheme. Wenig's spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Two other former eBay employees are scheduled to plead guilty on Thursday.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Bernadette Baum)