San Jose resident and former Santa Clara police Capt. Philip Cooke just became the seventh ex-eBay employee to be charged in a cyberstalking campaign that targeted a Massachusetts couple behind a newsletter critical of the online auction site.
Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that 55-year-old Cooke, who once supervised security operations for eBay’s European and Asian offices, has been charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.
Last month, prosecutors charged six former eBay employees—David Harville, James Baugh, Stephanie Popp, Stephanie Stockwell, Veronica Zea and Brian Gilbert—with the same crimes. According to the charging documents, the defendants allegedly harassed a Natick, Massachusetts couple who ran EcommerceBytes, a blog that reports on business news, including San Jose-based eBay.
“Among other things, several of the defendants ordered anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home, including a preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask, a funeral wreath, a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, and pornography—the last of these addressed to the newsletter’s publisher but sent to his neighbors’ homes,” a press release announcing the charges stated.
The group also allegedly sent both private Twitter messages and public tweets that criticized EcomerceBytes and threatened the victims.
Charging documents allege that Cooke, Baugh, Popp and Gilbert planned for the messages to become increasingly disturbing and ultimately end with them publishing the couple’s home address. The same group also allegedly planned to have Gilbert, another former Santa Clara police captain, “approach the victims with an offer to help stop the harassment that the defendants were secretly causing, in an effort to promote good will towards eBay, generate more favorable coverage in the newsletter and identify the individuals behind the anonymous comments.”
In a statement to San Jose Inside, Santa Clara spokeswoman Lenka Wright said the city plans on conducting an independent review of the cases Cooke handled while he was employed by the Santa Clara Police Department.
Last month, city officials announced that a third-party investigation would be conducted to ensure that Gilbert’s “actions and behavior while an employee were lawful and consistent with the expectations we have for all our employees.”
“On the advice of City Manager Deanna J. Santana, Police Chief Pat Nikolai has been recused from any involvement or oversight of the internal investigation because of his personal relationships with the accused former police captains,” Wright said.
Cooke most notably served as the incident commander during Super Bowl 50, which was held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. He has received multiple accolades for his service, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security and the California Commendation Medal, which was awarded by Major General David Baldwin.
Gilbert retired from Santa Clara’s force in May 2018 and city officials say that an initial review of his personnel file shows no disciplinary action.
Conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses each carry a sentence of up to five years behind bars, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution.