eBay scandal: The Steiner family's horrible trauma
If you are an online shopper, you probably shopped through eBay or at least heard the name at least once in your life. It is surely one of the most-used and famous shopping platforms on the internet that has been around for many years now. It has built a trustworthy business with its reliable services and fair policies between the seller and buyer. However, this is not what everyone thinks of eBay, especially David and Ina Steiner. The couple had to experience the eBay scandal first-hand.
Who are David and Ina Steiner? The Steiner family owns a news website called EcommerceBytes, and they have been working together for over 20 years. While David Steiner manages the business side of the work, Ina Steiner operates the reporting side. They have around 600,00 readers, most of whom are online sellers on famous websites like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon.
eBay scandal kicks off: Everything changed on August 8, 2019
Except for the regular business hustle, everything was ordinary until August 8, 2019. On that day, the couple started receiving strange emails, and they were sent newsletters that they had no interest in nor signed up for: Sin City Fetish Night, the Satanic Temple, the Communist Party, and dozens of others. The harassment continued on Twitter, and three days later, the couple got a strange call.
"Somebody left a voicemail for us, saying they couldn't fulfill the order for a wet specimen. And David was the one who called. And he said, 'What is a wet specimen?' And, and it was a pig fetus," Ina Steiner said. "That's when I really, my heart sank, because I thought, 'Who might be angry at something I wrote?' And I couldn't figure it out. I mean, we were, we were desperately trying to think, 'Who could it be?" said Ina Steiner in 60 Minutes.
The harassment kept getting worse each day, with pornography addressed to David Steiner sent to the couple's neighbors and their home being listed as the site of yard sales and sex parties. A book named "Surviving Loss of a Spouse," addressed to David Steiner, and a bloodied pig mask from the Saw movie was mailed to their house. The disturbing mails continued with live spiders and cockroaches and the "eBay scandal" continued.
The Steiners went to the police, and the investigation started while new packages and threats kept coming. They went through difficult times as, on top of installing security cameras in their house, they also had to sleep in separate rooms so that in case of a break-in, one of them could escape or at least call the cops. The fear followed them both within and outside the house.
One day, David Steiner noticed that a van was following him. He managed to take a photo of its license plate, and thanks to that picture, police now had a strong lead to follow. Sergeant Jason Sutherland and Detective John Haswell of the Natick, Massachusetts Police Department traced the plate and found out that it belonged to a rental car agency. After digging a little more, the mystery came to light as an eBay employee named Veronica Zea had rented the van.
After that point, the FBI took over the case from MPD, and almost a year after, a couple more eBay employees and contractors who had ties with the eBay scandal were revealed. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling unveiled the indictments of those names.
What is the reason behind all these actions?
But why would a few eBay employees do these kinds of actions against a couple who runs a regular website? Lelling said that the "campaign of terror" was planned in April 2019 at eBay after the company's CEO at the time, Devin Wenig, shared the link of Ina Steiner's article about his annual pay. Later texts were also revealed, with eBay's chief communication officer Steve Wymer responding, "we are going to crush this lady," which sparked the fire to the later eBay scandal.
Devin Wenig's next message was simple: "Take her down." Wymer contacted the security director James Baugh and wrote another senselessly angry message: "I want to see ashes. As long as it takes. Whatever it takes." Baugh gathered his security staff and sent a team near where Steiners lived; that's how all the harassment started.
Seven members of the Safety and Security unit of eBay pleaded guilty to stalking or cyberstalking charges. Veronica Zea received a year of home detention and probation, while James Baugh received a five-year prison term.
It is very difficult to emphasize what Steiners have gone through, and neither eBay nor Wenig and Wymer were charged with crimes related to online security or any other. The court said that it lacked evidence to charge Wenig or Wymer with any crimes, but the investigation into eBay is ongoing. eBay fired Wymer, and Wenig left the company in 2019 and is currently a board member of General Motors. Besides, Devin Wenig also added that he wasn't aware of any of the actions against the Steiners and "had he been aware of it at the time, he would have stopped it."Advertisement