Former Hillsborough leader accused of wiping texts from 8 county phones before investigation

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) - A scandal at the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission got bigger and badder on Monday, times eight.

The county disclosed to a judge, not only did the former head of the PTC wipe his cell phone clean of text messages when he learned it would be seized for an investigation, he wiped clean a total of eight county phones.

Back in June, Kyle Cockream, the head of the PTC, was told there was a request for his cell phone's text messages and to hold on to them.

Instead, it appears he tried to get rid of them.

As Cockream exited the Hillsborough County courthouse, Target 8 asked him if he was trying to hide something from the public. "I don't have any comment," he said.

Cockream didn't have much to say inside the courtroom either.  The former executive director of Hillsborough County's Public Transportation Commission didn't make a peep.

But, the attorney for the PTC dropped a bomb.

Stephen Todd told the court, not only did Cockream have his cell phone wiped clean of text messages and data when he learned he was being investigated, he did the same thing to eight PTC phones.

"The text messages on all were wiped in the same manner that Mr. Sharp, said that Mr. Cockream's phone had been wiped," Todd told the court.

When asked about the additional phones, Cockream was mum.

"I don't have any comment," he said.

Cockream is at the center of a Public Transportation Commission scandal. His emails showed that he collaborated with taxi companies to set up stings on Uber and Lyft drivers.

Taxi drivers posed as passengers.  PTC officers showed up at the addresses to which the Uber and Lyft drivers were dispatched, and ticketed them.

When reminded destroying public records was against the law, Cockream was again mum. "I don't have any comment at this time on the advice of counsel," he added.

On January 11, a judge ordered Cockream turn over his pass codes to allow an expert to try to retrieve the deleted data.  That order is now on hold.

Judge Richard Nielsen decided against compelling Cockream to provide his passcode to an I-Cloud account, so the records could be turned over, because he determined Cockream was not properly notified of the last hearing.  He did order that the records in the I-Cloud account be preserved.

The county told the court it found out about the eight phones just recently.  Six of those phones belonged to subordinates of Cockream at the PTC.

Verizon Wireless provided the numbers to which text messages were sent and received, prior the those phones being wiped clean or reset.

Judge Nielsen wants a case management conference scheduled during the week of February 13.

OTHER INVESTIGATIONS PEOPLE ARE CLICKING ON: If you have something that you think should be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

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