Alleged Anthrax Hoaxer Operated White Supremacist Web Sites

  • August 25, 2004

The FBI revealed on August 19, 2004, that they had arrested a suspect in connection with a series of anthrax hoaxes that occurred in El Paso, Texas. The suspect, Steven Earl Cottingham, had been operating several white supremacist web sites at the time of the hoaxes.

On July 23, agents arrested Cottingham, 34, for having allegedly sent four letters in August and September 2003 to the FBI and other targets. The letters contained typewritten threats and a white powder.

Cottingham was charged with mailing threatening communications and conspiracy to kill a U.S. citizen. According to the FBI, he made statements after his arrest that may connect him to the Earth Liberation Front. He allegedly told the FBI that "the city and the community were guilty of crimes against the environment and animals, and as a result, he would infect the community with anthrax."

In 2003, however, white supremacy seemed to interest Cottingham more than the environment. That year he made a series of white supremacist Internet postings and created several racist Web sites.

These white supremacist Web sites, now defunct, included the Nazi Chess Web site, a site ostensibly for the "SS Chess Federation," and the Pride and Honor Web site. The SS Chess Federation purported to promote "white pride chess tournaments" and to publish an SS Chess Magazine, although there is no evidence of either ever actually happening.

Cottingham also offered for sale a Nazi Chess Set, with chess pieces modeled after people such as Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering. Cottingham, who appeared to be a chess enthusiast, also operated nonracist chess Web sites.

Cottingham's Pride and Honor Web site offered a variety of Nazi and anti-Semitic materials to view or download, including anti-Semitic and racist flyers. In addition to his white supremacist Web sites, he also made a variety of postings to the neo-Nazi Web site Stormfront, primarily to promote his sites, urging neo-Nazis to "join with us in our work to bring the white race back to where it once was!"

On Stormfront, Cottingham described himself as a "32 year old white power male in El Paso, Texas, looking for a white girl to fall in love with!" He also claimed to have been "involved with computer hacking" and to have been arrested by the FBI and incarcerated for 15 months in federal prison.

In addition to his white supremacist Web sites, Cottingham operated other Web sites and took on other "personas," typically related to non-Western religions. In these guises, Cottingham tried to sell computers and to solicit funds, usually to build "temples." One web site, for example, solicited money for "the building of the Temple, the operation of the orphanage as well as other outreach programs in Mother India."

Another page offered computers for sale to help build the "Lord Shiva Temple" in El Paso. The address for the temple was an apartment complex in El Paso where he had a residence.

Additionally, as "Chef Steven C," Cottingham also operated a Web site for the "Ono Academy of Culinary Arts and Design," which allegedly offered associates and bachelors degrees in the culinary arts.

At the time Cottingham's arrest was revealed by the FBI, it was also revealed that in a separate case he and his wife, Sariah Owan Cottingham, had been indicted for allegedly counterfeiting more than $50,000 in checks in July and August 2003.

The two face up to 30 years in prison and a million-dollar fine if convicted on the bank fraud and securities charges; if convicted on the anthrax hoax charges, Steven Cottingham could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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