The former eBay executive who concocted a bizarre scheme to stalk and harass a Natick couple was sentenced to 57 months in prison on Thursday, bringing to a close one chapter of the horrific story of the tech company’s internal security gone awry.
Jim Baugh, eBay’s former head of global security, will also have to pay a fine of $40,000. He was ordered to report to prison after Thanksgiving in early December. David Harville, eBay’s former director of global resiliency who worked for Baugh, was sentenced to 24 months in prison and a $20,000 fine.
But there will be further legal fallout from the 2019 crime spree against David and Ina Steiner, who published a website called Ecommercebytes that drew the ire of top eBay officials. Four more former employees who worked for Baugh and have pleaded guilty are yet to be sentenced. The Steiners are suing the former employees, the company, and its former chief executive, Devin Wenig, among others.
US District Judge Patti Saris handed down Baugh’s sentence after a two-hour hearing. “It isn’t just one thing, we all do stupid things which are aberrational at moments, but this was a pattern of cruel conduct,” Saris said during the hearing. “I don’t even understand it all.”
During the hearing, Baugh turned to face the Steiners and apologized. “I was 100 percent responsible for everything that happened on my watch,” he said. “For that, I am truly sorry.”
Prosecutors had sought a sentence of 71 months and a fine of $60,000, while Baugh’s lawyers argued a sentence of 30 months with no fine was appropriate. For Harville, prosecutors had sought a sentence of 41 months and a fine of $25,000. Harville’s lawyers sought no prison time or fine, instead recommending probation or 12 months of home confinement.
The sentencing hearings again stoked the debate over the lack of criminal charges against eBay itself and its former top executives such as Wenig. Prosecutors have not charged anyone above Baugh in the case.
Baugh’s lawyer, William Fick, conceded that his client broke the law but argued that the harassment would not have occurred without encouragement from above. “Where is the C-suite?,” Fick asked. “Mr. Baugh had no reason to go after the Steiners absent the obsession at the top of eBay.”
“It has been hard in this case to tie down who at eBay is most at fault,” said Kirk Hanson, senior fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University who has been following the case. “While CEOs often cannot be tied to the specifics of wrongdoing, they share the guilt by creating a culture which led to the behavior.”
Rosemary Scapicchio, who is representing the Steiners in their civil lawsuit, said she would continue to pursue the higher-level executives who were not charged. ”We want accountability, we want transparency, and more than anything, the Steiners want answers,” she said after the hearings. “So far we haven’t gotten them.”
Baugh joined eBay in 2016 after a career in security that included protecting Bill Gates at Microsoft and later as part of the security team for the billionaire’s foundation, according to filings by Baugh’s lawyers. Baugh also served in the Central Intelligence Agency and worked as a private security contractor, once helping safeguard then-Vice President Joe Biden at the 2016 Oscars.
While at eBay, Baugh heard repeated complaints about the Steiners’ website from superiors including then-CEO Wenig. Starting in June, 2019, Baugh directed a campaign to harass the Steiners that included scrawling graffiti on a fence in their yard in Natick and sending a series of disturbing deliveries to their house including live spiders and a bloody pig mask. In August 2019, Baugh escalated the campaign by traveling with some of his employees to Natick and following the Steiners around town.
The Steiners reported the incidents to Natick police, who quickly connected the culprits back to eBay and called in the FBI. As the scheme unraveled, Baugh oversaw a coverup that included erasing phone messages, lying to eBay investigators and police, and creating a false document to avoid the blame.
Harville participated in the surveillance of the Steiner’s home and erased messages on his phone after eBay told him to retain them.
The Steiners, speaking at the sentencing hearing, said they felt terrorized and feared for their lives.
“This was a bizarre premeditated assault on our lives planned around a corporate conference table,” David told Judge Saris. “As agents of eBay, they made our lives a living hell.”
Baugh, 47, was the second member of the scheme sentenced and Harville, 50, was the third. In 2020, former eBay security supervisor Philip Cooke, who worked for Baugh, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Four other defendants will be sentenced in coming weeks.
Baugh declined to comment on his way out of the courtroom.