BOSTON (AP) – A former track coach at Northeastern University in Boston was arrested Wednesday on charges of using fake social media accounts to try to cheat student-athletes by sending him nude photos of themselves, prosecutors said.
Steve Waithe, 28, of Chicago, is accused of creating fake social media accounts to contact track athletes and offering to help get rid of the compromising photos he claims he found online.
From at least February 2020, Waithe would send photos he had obtained of the victims and try to persuade them to send him more explicit photos so that he could ‘reverse the image search’, authorities said in court documents.
Waithe also regularly asked to use the cell phones of female athletes during training and meetings so that they could film their form. A victim told authorities that at least once she saw Waithe scrolling through her phone instead of recording.
Waithe, who is charged with cyberstalking and wire fraud in federal court in Boston, appeared before a Chicago judge and a hearing was scheduled for Friday to determine whether he should remain in detention.
US Assistant Prosecutor Kate McClelland called Waithe’s conduct “brazen and predatory” and said authorities feared he would try to intimidate victims if released.
Waithe’s attorney, Jack Corfman, noted that Waithe has no criminal history and said he was not charged with disclosing the footage publicly or retaliating against people who hadn’t sent him more pictures.
Corfman declined to comment in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Waithe worked at Northeastern from October 2018 to February 2019, when, according to the school, he was fired following an academic investigation into his “inappropriate conduct towards female student athletes.”
“Affected students have received advice and other resources. The university also contacted federal law enforcement officials and worked in full cooperation throughout the federal investigation, ”Renata Nyul, a spokesperson for the Northeast, said in an email.
In one case, authorities say Waithe contacted a victim via an Instagram account and claimed he was trying to help people whose nude photos had been “leaked” get the footage offline. He sent the victim nude photos of herself, which she said had been recorded on her cell phone. She said she gave Waithe her phone on several occasions to film her form during practice, prosecutors said.
Officials say Google records show Waithe searched, among other things, “Can an Instagram Be Traced” and visited a website titled “Can someone trace my fake Instagram account?”
Waithe is also accused of cyberbullying a victim last year by sending nude photos of herself to her boyfriend, hacking her Snapchat account and using an anonymous phone number to text her. Authorities say other victims were targeted in a separate program to trick women into emailing photos of him under the guise of “athlete research” or “body development.”
Waithe sent emails under a female personality asking for information on height, weight and eating habits and requested photos in a “uniform or swimsuit to show as much skin as possible,” prosecutors said. The emails often included attachments of explicit photos of his fake character as a guide and promised to send gift cards to the victim upon completion of the study, authorities said.
Prosecutors say investigators have found more than 10 victims of the “body development” program and identified more than 300 explicit images of victims in Waithe’s Google accounts.
Prosecutors say Waithe also coached at Penn State University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Tennessee and Concordia University in Chicago.
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