Former Santa Clara police captain Brian Gilbert may be facing significant jail time and a hefty fine for his alleged participation in a harassment scheme that sent live cockroaches and a dead baby pig to publishers of a business newsletter.
Gilbert is charged with conspiracy to commit cyber stalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses, each of which carry a sentence of five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine, according to a June 15 news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.
Gilbert retired from Santa Clara Police Department in 2017 and was immediately hired by ecommerce giant eBay as a Senior Manager of Special Operations for eBay’s Global Security Team.
The victims were a married couple that publish a Natick, Mass. newsletter that published an August 2019 article critical of eBay. The allegations suggest that texts from two eBay executives may have launched the criminal scheme by saying that the publication’s editor needed a “take down.”
Gilbert and his eBay colleagues Stephanie Popp, Stephanie Stockwell, Veronica Zea, James Baugh and David Harville — all of whom were at the top levels of eBay’s security operations — are alleged to have subsequently conceived the criminal plan that included threats, surveillance and extremely unnerving deliveries.
Taking a page from the Mafia’s book, the defendants allegedly sent the victims a fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask, a funeral wreath, a book on surviving a spouse’s death, and pornography addressed to the newsletter’s publisher but delivered to neighboring houses.
Next, defendants allegedly sent increasingly threatening messages to the couple and “doxed” the victims — published their home address.
Allegedly the group intended Gilbert to offer the couple help to end the harassment “in an effort to promote good will towards eBay, generate more favorable coverage in the newsletter, and identify the individuals behind the anonymous comments.”
A third part of the scheme allegedly involved cyber-stalking the victims. According to the charges, Baugh and Harville went to Boston in August allegedly intending to put a tracking device on the victims’ car. In case police stopped them, they allegedly had false documents saying, “They were investigating the victims as ‘Persons of Interest’ who had threatened eBay executives.”
The victims spotted the attempt and called Natick police, who opened an investigation and asked for help from eBay.
When the conspirators got wind of the investigation, they allegedly tried to put the police on a false track by lying, pretending to help with the investigation and deleting digital evidence showing their involvement. The defendants even went so far, the charges allege, as to give the police a made-up story about a phony “person of interest” connected with the disturbing deliveries.
Gilbert’s Close Ties to City Hall
While Gilbert was allegedly participating in this Mafia-like plot, he also penned an editorial endorsing Patrick Nikolai for police chief, praising the “courageous” Nikolai and denigrating Acting Police Chief Dan Winter. The editorial was posted in Robert Haugh’s Santa Clara News, a publication with close ties to Mayor Lisa Gillmor.
“The most courageous amongst the troops was then-Sergeant Pat Nikolai, “Gilbert wrote. “While many officers clearly felt we needed a new police chief, only Pat was willing to step up and put his name and career on the line to run for office.”
Gilbert was reportedly close to Nikolai and participated in Nikolai’s unsuccessful 2016 campaign and donated $550 to it, according to City records. That campaign was characterized by the police union PAC’s notorious “black and white” “Letter From Your Mayor” mailers — in which some saw a racist subtext.
In 2018 Gilbert collected $207,652 in pension benefits. California’s pension forfeiture law only apply to “felonies arising out of… former official duties.”