“That’s an image that will never really leave a father or mother’s mind. Or a cousin’s, a friend’s, etc. . . .” police said he wrote in one such warning to a woman who works in corporate sales training. “Imagine if every person you give a presentation to had already seen u naked.”
Investigators in Montgomery County charged Cooper this week with “threatening to inflict emotional distress” to obtain sex. It was the third time they have charged him with that offense over the past two weeks.
“He keeps doing the same thing,” prosecutor George Simms said in Montgomery County District Court on Tuesday.
This time, Judge John Moffett ordered Cooper to stay in jail without the option of posting a bond.
“I’m going to hold him until we get to the bottom of the case and find out what’s going on,” the judge said.
In the hearing, an attorney for Cooper suggested he may need mental health treatment. She could not be reached for comment after the hearing. Cooper is due back in court Monday, according to court filings.
Investigators said that while pretending to be Rebecca Lattimore, Cooper sometimes persuaded the targeted women to send nude photos by first sending them nude images of a female. None of the women engaged in sex acts with Cooper. Some blocked him from their online accounts. Two of them had their boyfriends intervene, according to court papers. One of the boyfriends said he confronted Cooper about the photos, pinned Cooper down on a paved parking lot and said, “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t mess you up.”
Photos weren’t released in that incident. But in at least one of the other of the cases, the nude images did end up on a pornography site, police said.
“I’m worried there are other victims out there,” said Montgomery County Detective Joshua Locke, who urged people with information to call police. “And they’ve been damaged by him mentally and are too scared to come forward.”
He said he has seen sextortion cases before. But they’re generally between people who know each other or tied to a bitter divorce. Cooper targeted smart, professional women he didn’t know, Locke said, and used layers of duplicity to lure them.
And at one point, according to court records, Cooper pretended to be a robbery victim to apparently get out in front of the police search for him.
“He’s incredibly intelligent,” Locke said. “What he’s done is incredibly cruel.”
Another detective working on the case, Chris Massari, said Cooper presents a risk because he kept trying to pull the extortion scheme even after he knew investigators were onto him.
“I think there was a certain amount of bravado,” Massari said. “His behavior was escalating in a dangerous direction.”
The first sign that someone was running the scam in Montgomery County, according to court records, surfaced last month.
The corporate sales trainer, 29, reported to police a bizarre sequence of events that began on June 13 when she started communicating over Instagram and Snapchat with someone she believed to be Rebecca Lattimore. On June 14 and June 16, the woman told police, she sent several sexually explicit photos and videos of herself to the Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
Six days later, the woman said, “Rebecca Lattimore” wrote her and said he was a man — and he needed to meet with her for sex or he’d strike back with the images, according to court filings.
“I’m going to post all your pics and vids u sent online, including where you work, your phone number etc.,” police said the man wrote.
He added a smiley-face emoji, according to court filings, and gave her a 5 p.m. deadline to comply. He suggested she go to a hotel room and place her dress outside the door.
The woman tried to “block” the person from further communications. He began texting her, police said, using an Internet-based “spoofing” technique to create the illusion he had three different cellphone numbers. At that point, according to court filings, the woman went to the police.
Two days later, a different county detective was diving into what he thought was a possible strong-armed robbery outside a barbecue restaurant in Germantown — where parties had scattered by the time police arrived. The purported victim, who identified himself as Michael Cooper, called him.
In Cooper’s telling, the detective would write in a court affidavit, a stranger had come up from behind, shoved him to the ground, grabbed his cellphone and forced Cooper to apply his fingerprint to the screen to unlock it. And Cooper added something else: An accomplice of the cellphone thief took a picture of him — pressed against the pavement — and posted it on Facebook.
The detective, Locke, dug into the claim — found the photo on Facebook — and was stunned by what the man who posted it wrote as a caption, according to court records: “If anyone is following this creep, block him. Threatening girls by blackmailing them.”
In the comments section below, friends asked the Facebook poster for details. The man, according to police and the boyfriend, then gave the name Michael B. Cooper — to which one of his friends expressed shock.
“Michael? . . . Went to church with this dude. . . . He was a good kid and had a good heart. [I don’t know] what went wrong but I hope he figures this out cause what he did — had it been me I would’ve done way worse than just exposing him on social media. You know how I get down,” according to the Facebook comments.
The detective contacted the poster, who interviewed with police for 30 minutes along with his girlfriend — one of the alleged victims. They provided social media communications with “Rebecca Lattimore.”
The boyfriend admitted pushing Cooper to the ground outside the restaurant and grabbing his phone, according to court filings. He told the detective that he did so to try to delete any compromising photos of his girlfriend — which he did before tossing the phone into the bushes. He agreed to take the detective to it, according to the man’s account in court filings and an interview with The Washington Post. The boyfriend spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the identity of his girlfriend.
“It happened,” he said of his girlfriend sending the photos to a person she met online. “It was what it was. But no one deserves to be exploited like that.”
Locke kept digging and found three more of Cooper’s alleged extortion targets, police said. The case had made a 180 from Cooper’s robbery report and on July 13, Locke charged Cooper with seven counts involving four victims. That same day, Cooper posted a $3,000 bond and was released.
Just two weeks later, according to court filings, he tried to run his scam again and was confronted by another chivalrous boyfriend. This man, the filings allege, held Cooper at bay until police arrived.