55-year-old former Santa Clara police captain Philip Cooke entered a guilty plea in federal court in Boston Tuesday, joining six other former eBay employees implicated in a wackadoo intimidation scheme aimed at a couple of Boston-based bloggers.
The case dates back to August 2019, when Cooke and the other defendants conspired to scare some bloggers into removing some bad press they had published that was critical of eBay and its business practices. The victims, a married couple who published an online newsletter for e-tailers, was targeted because of an article they published last year about a lawsuit in which eBay was accusing Amazon of poaching its sellers.
As the Mercury News reports, Cooke, who was hired to head up security operations at eBay’s European and Asian offices, worked with former employees Stephanie Popp, 32, and Veronica Zea, 26, both of San Jose, to target the Massachusetts couple with threatening tweets, a funeral wreath sent to their home, and in an odd twist, a bloody Halloween pig mask with the attached message, “DO I HAVE UR ATTENTION NOW????"
The employees were allegedly seeking approval from upper management at eBay by "handling" this PR problem through these bizarre tactics.
Per the Boston Globe, Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Boston, said that the group, "hoped this ‘white knight strategy’ would create some good will toward the company, result in more favorable articles and please eBay’s management."
The defendants also include another retired Santa Clara captain, 51-year-old Brian Gilbert of San Jose, who is also expected to plead guilty this week. Popp and Zea already entered guilty pleas earlier this month, and 26-year-old Redwood City resident Stephanie Stockwell is also expected to plead guilty shortly.
Two other defendants who formerly worked at eBay, James Baugh, 45, of San Jose, and David Harville, 48, of Gilroy and New York City, have not indicated how they will plead.
Sentencing for Cooke and the others has been scheduled for February. The maximum they could receive for the counts of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses is five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, and restitution.
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