A former eBay executive who led a team that harassed and stalked a Natick couple claimed in a new court filing that he was an intelligence agent and law enforcement contractor before joining the e-commerce company.
Lawyers for James Baugh, who was eBay’s director of safety and security until he was fired in September 2019, are demanding that a judge force federal prosecutors to turn over proof of his prior exploits in covert operations, to be used in his defense against 15 criminal counts of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and witness tampering.
Baugh and six other former eBay employees and contractors were criminally charged in federal court in Boston last year over a bizarre scheme to harass Ina and David Steiner, who published an online newsletter from their home in Natick that was sometimes critical of eBay. Five of the people charged have already pleaded guilty and one was sentenced in July to 18 months in prison.
As part of the scheme, Baugh and some of his team traveled to Boston, where they surveilled the Steiners’ house and sent disturbing packages and unwanted deliveries.
But as part of Baugh’s defense, his lawyers say he believed there was a “personal safety threat” to eBay’s top executives because of what the Steiners published in their newsletter. The top executives were “well aware” of Baugh’s background and “expected he would use strategies and tactics that he learned in service of the U.S. government to address what they characterized as an existential threat posed by the newsletter,” Baugh’s lawyers wrote in their motion seeking his service records from 2014 to 2018.
Those prior tactics included helping install surveillance devices at a hotel to monitor a visiting head of state and using false pretenses to help an undercover agent get close to a suspect, according to the filing. Baugh was told to stick with a false “cover story” if caught, his lawyers wrote. None of the activities described resembled the harassment of the Steiners, which included sending unwanted packages of live spiders, a funeral wreath, or a pizza at 4:30 a.m.
Federal prosecutors in the case previously declined to turn over ― or even acknowledge the existence of ― any records of Baugh’s service in US intelligence or federal law enforcement agencies. In a July letter to Baugh’s attorneys, the US Attorney’s Office in Boston said Baugh’s work prior to the events at eBay in 2019 were not relevant to his defense.
“The period described in the requests is irrelevant because it predates the existence of the conspiracy alleged in the indictment,” government lawyers responded.
The US Attorney’s Office in Boston declined to comment on the new filing from Baugh’s defense team.
Lawyers for Baugh declined to comment, and eBay did not immediately comment.
The couple has also filed a lawsuit against Baugh, eBay, and other former executives named in the criminal complaints seeking damages for their ordeal.