eBay cyberstalking schemer sentenced to 18 months in prison

Former eBay security manager Philip Cooke was sentenced on Tuesday to 18 months in prison for his role in an intense cyberstalking campaign against a pair of eBay critics.  

U.S. district judge Allison Burroughs issued the sentence nine months after Cooke was found guilty to conspiracy of cyberstalking and tampering with witnesses. 

According to federal prosecutors and a lawsuit filed last week by the victims, a group of eBay employees led by executives began in 2019 targeting the married couple Ina and David Steiner.  

The couple who oversees publishing an e-commerce blog received live spiders, a Halloween mask of a bloodied pig head, and a book titled “Surviving Loss of a Spouse” from former eBay employees.  

Burroughs addressed the employees’ actions as “really abominable” as she sentenced Cooke for 18 months in prison, followed by a year of home detention and a $15,000 fine. 

“It’s almost unfathomable to me, I’m not sure if I saw it on television, I would find it believable,” the judge added. 

Cooke – a retired police captain in Santa Clara, California – participated earlier in 2019, along with other eBay employees in conducting meetings against the couple. They discussed sending the publishers threatening messages, unwanted deliveries such as the bloodied pig head, and their plan of victims’ surveillance.

The cyberstalking conspirator is the first of seven former eBay workers who have been charged in this case and waiting to be sentenced. Four others have also pleaded guilty. 

Both victims spoke in court describing to the judge that they were afraid to leave their home in Natick, Massachusetts, and were concerned for their safety. 

“We were terrified,” Ina Steiner said. 

The husband further explained that the cyber-stalkers “weaponized their security department to make death threats against my wife, to try (to) burn our business down.”  

In parallel, throughout the court session, Cooke said he should have sought to prevent what became “horrific behavior to please the boss.” 

“It is crystal clear this was all wrong from start to finish,” he said. 

Cooke argued that the brain behind the plan was former eBay senior director of safety and security James Baugh. 

He further blamed his behavior on drinking problems within eBay’s culture, saying in a sentencing memorandum that “drinking was part of the culture, with alcohol present throughout the office space where it was typical to take morning shots of alcohol with coworkers.” 

Prior to Tuesday, before the judicial decision was made, prosecutors had asked the court for a prison sentence of two and a half years for Cooke, describing his actions as part of a “three-week nightmare” for the publishers. 

It’s worth mentioning that the U.S.- based e-commerce corporation was not charged as it already terminated all involved employees earlier in September 2019, and issued an apology last year to the affected individuals.