A man stands outside with trees in the background
Steve Wymer is pictured in this photo courtesy of Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley.

For the first time since eBay faced a national scandal involving a horrific stalking campaign, the tech giant is formally admitting the involvement of company executives including a Silicon Valley insider — Steve Wymer.

The San Jose-based company last month entered into a deferred prosecution agreement — a deal granting eBay amnesty if it agrees to certain conditions and company changes — after facing six criminal charges including stalking, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. As part of the deal, eBay agreed to pay $3 million and formally admit the extent of the heinous scheme that unfolded under its roof.

Texts between Wymer, who worked as communications director, and other eBay employees in 2019 fueled a stalking and harassment campaign to silence a Massachusetts couple who published critical online posts about the company. They subscribed the couple to pornographic websites, installed a tracking device on their car and shipped them disturbing packages including a funeral wreath, a book about grieving a spouse, bloody pig masks and live spiders and cockroaches.

According to the agreement, Wymer directed employees on how to respond to the police when they were contacted and deleted text messages about the couple. Seven employees faced a slew of criminal charges and some went to prison for their role in the troubling scheme, except Wymer, who hasn’t faced any criminal charges for his involvement. The harassment campaign arose from communications between those executives and Wymer, authorities said.

With the new agreement, eBay is now admitting guilt and highlighting Wymer’s involvement. Wymer, a Willow Glen resident and business owner, did not return calls for comment.

Steve Wymer and James Baugh’s Aug. 1, 2019 conversation, in which Baugh commits to put in motion a “plan B” and Wymer commits to “embrace managing any bad fall out.” From eBay’s admission of facts in the deferred prosecution agreement.

Despite his role in the shocking plan, including sending texts that threatened to “crush” the blog’s author and saying he wants to “see ashes,” Wymer walked away from the harassment campaign almost unscathed. He landed a high-paying job as CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley just a year after he was fired amid the scandal.

He enjoys a cozy relationship with Silicon Valley’s top political leaders and insiders — including former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who’s now running for Congress, and his successor Mayor Matt Mahan. Wymer worked for both mayors without pay and helped coordinate official schedules, arrange meetings at City Hall and recruit and interview employees, among other things. Both Mahan and Liccardo have defended him.

New evidence?

The targets of the harassment campaign, Ina and David Steiner, filed a civil lawsuit in 2021 against Wymer and other company leaders after federal prosecutors declined to charge them criminally. The case continues today.

Observers and insiders, including the Steiners, question how Wymer got out mostly unaffected.

Prosecutors said the evidence tying Wymer and two other executives who were not charged to the conspiracy was insufficient. But the Steiners believe the actions of Wymer and the others was no different from those who were charged.

“It’s the Steiners’ position that the conduct of Wymer is very similar to the conduct of the seven convicted defendants, because the seven convicted defendants got indicted for obstructing justice, destroying evidence, misleading an investigation,” Rosemary Scapicchio, the Steiners’ attorney, told San José Spotlight. “That’s all conduct that the Steiners believe should have resulted in an indictment against Wymer.”

The Steiners’ civil suit argues Wymer and former eBay CEO Devin Wenig gave employees free rein to destroy critical posts from the Steiners by whatever means necessary. The lawsuit mentions Wymer’s texts saying he would manage any fallout or negative consequences. A trial is set for March 2025.

“It’s executive deniability,” John Sims, a retired law professor at University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, told told San José Spotlight. “The people below you go to jail and you walk. It’s nice to be a boss. It’s infuriating.”

Sims said federal prosecutors should’ve pursued the case against eBay executives more aggressively, but acknowledged they’re stretched thin with large caseloads.

However, Sims said the civil case could bring to light new evidence through the depositions of executives and even convicted employees.

“They might be able to explore all the dark corners here,” he said. “It sure does look like they’ve got a good case.”

The Jan. 11 agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office grants amnesty to the company in exchange for a $3 million fine for six statutory offenses. The tech company needs to hire an independent advisor to monitor its practices and recommend changes over three years.

“eBay engaged in absolutely horrific, criminal conduct,” Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy said in a statement. “The company’s employees and contractors involved in this campaign put the victims through pure hell, in a petrifying campaign aimed at silencing their reporting and protecting the eBay brand.”

Deleted messages

The agreement forced eBay to acknowledge a series of actions by Wymer.

According to the documents, a police detective in Massachusetts emailed eBay on Aug. 20, 2019 to help with the Steiner investigation. An eBay communications employee forwarded the request to Wymer the next day with an “exploding head” emoji.

An excerpt from eBay’s admission of facts in the deferred prosecution agreement.

“Please do not do anything until I can check a few things … I don’t want us to engage,” Wymer replied, according to eBay’s admissions. “Who specifically did the local police contact first at eBay.”

One of the convicted employees, former eBay security director Jim Baugh, texted Wymer on Aug. 23, 2019 that police in Massachusetts got his team’s rental car license plates while following the Steiners. Baugh also told Wymer police had informed eBay they were investigating employees’ harassment of the Steiners.

Baugh claimed his team did nothing illegal in texts to Wymer. Baugh was sentenced to 57 months in prison in September 2022 after making false statements to police, deleting digital evidence and falsifying records.

“We are cooperating, but I know they realize something is off,” Baugh’s text message to Wymer reads. “We will continue to cooperate, but not sure how much longer we can keep this up. If there is any way to get some top cover that would be great. If not, I just wanted you to have a heads up because they are aware that multiple members of the (executive leadership team) are not a fan of that website to include (redacted) and his wife.”

An excerpt from eBay’s admission of facts in the deferred prosecution agreement. Former eBay security director Jim Baugh messages Steve Wymer about rental car license plates tracing back to eBay employees.

eBay’s internal investigators obtained forensic copies of Wymer’s company and personal cell phones. The phones were missing communications from August 2019, leading authorities to believe they were deleted.

Regardless of what happened in the criminal case, Scappichio said the Steiners’ lawsuit aims to hold Wymer accountable.

“They believe the government didn’t go far enough with the criminal indictments,” Scapicchio told San José Spotlight. “I think the federal government is taking the position that they didn’t have enough evidence to indict Wymer and (other executives). Our position (is) that you can’t find the evidence you’re not looking for. They just weren’t looking.”

Contact Brandon Pho at [email protected] or @brandonphooo on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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