Former college athletics coach faces federal charges after authorities say he cyberstalked at least one student athlete and used fake social media accounts to trick others into sending him photos nude and semi-nude.
Steve Waithe, 28, of Chicago, Ill., Was taken into custody Wednesday morning on one count each of wire fraud and cyberstalking, the Massachusetts attorney’s office said in a statement.
Waithe was employed as a track and field coach at Northeastern University in Boston from October 2018 to February 2019, when he was fired due to a “college investigation into his improper conduct towards student athletes, ”Renata Nyul, spokesperson for the school, told NBC. News.
Meanwhile, prosecutors allege Waithe used fake social media accounts to tell women he found compromising photos of them online and then offered to “help” remove them.
“Under this pretext, it is alleged that Waithe requested additional nude or semi-nude photos that he could allegedly use for” reverse image searches, “the US prosecutor’s office said in the statement.
A key part of the ploy was Waithe to convince victims to give him their phones so he could film them to work on their form, the FBI said. Shortly after filming the women with their phones, prosecutors said Waithe allegedly contacted several of them on fake Instagram accounts with nude photos of the athletes allegedly stolen by Waithe from their phones.
He reportedly told victims of the fake Instagram accounts that “he was working with a website created for people whose nude photos had been ‘leaked’ in hopes of determining who ‘leaked’ the images and have them removed. Internet images ”. according to the complaint.
Investigators said they obtained Waithe’s Google search history, which showed dozens of searches and website visits in 2020 that the FBI said were linked to the Waithe scheme.
“In May 2020, for example, Waithe’s internet search and browsing history includes a search on ‘Can we trace an Instagram’ and a visit to a web page titled ‘Can someone please me. to find my fake Instagram account? Prosecutors wrote in the complaint.
In a separate scheme, Waithe was also accused of reaching out to potential victims for a bogus study and asking for information about their height, weight and eating habits. Under the pseudonyms “Katie Janovich” and “Kathruyn Svoboda”, he allegedly requested photos of the victims in swimsuits or other revealing clothing.
Investigators said they identified more than 10 victims and found more than 300 nude and semi-nude images of the victims in Waithe’s email accounts.
“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, ”Northeastern said in an email.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Waithe previously worked as a track and field coach at several other major universities, including Penn State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Tennessee, and Concordia University of Chicago.
Efforts to reach Waithe by phone on Wednesday failed. We didn’t know if he had a lawyer.
Waithe is expected to make his first appearance in Chicago federal court on Wednesday afternoon. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Investigators are still looking to identify other victims and have asked potential victims to come forward on the FBI website.