A former Northeastern University athletics coach has been arrested in a scheme to trick female athletes into sending him nude or semi-nude photos, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Former trainer Steve Waithe, 28, of Chicago, has been charged with one count of cyberstalking and one count of wire fraud, the Massachusetts district attorney’s office said in a statement.
From October 2018 to February 2019, Mr. Waithe worked as a track and field coach at Northeastern University in Boston, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Meanwhile, prosecutors said he asked to use the cell phones of female athletes “under the pretext of filming their form during training and meetings,” the statement said. At times, he has been seen “scrolling” through phones while holding the devices as if recording video, according to the complaint.
From February 2020, Mr Waithe orchestrated a scheme to trick female athletes into sending him nude or semi-nude photos of themselves, prosecutors said.
Mr Waithe contacted the victims via social media accounts and claimed he had found compromising photos of them online and offered to ‘help’ them remove the photos from the internet, the office said. American attorney.
While using various pseudonyms, including variations of “Privacy Protector,” “Katie Janovich” and “Anon,” Mr. Waithe requested the photos from the students, apparently to perform “reverse image searches,” according to the statement. .
From at least June 2020 to October 2020, Mr Waithe harassed at least one Northeastern athlete via social media messages, an anonymous phone number and an intrusion into his Snapchat account, prosecutors said.
According to the statement, the investigation found that Mr. Waithe’s internet browser history included researching information on how to hack Snapchat accounts and visits to websites with headlines such as: “Is this that someone can trace my fake Instagram account to me? “
Mr Waithe also contacted the victims as part of an “athlete research” or a “body development study,” prosecutors said.
Identifying himself as “Katie Janovich” or “Kathryn Svoboda”, he emailed potential victims and described a bogus study for athletes “and requested information on height, weight and eating habits,” according to the communicated.
The emails, prosecutors said, also asked the women to send photos of themselves in a “uniform or swimsuit to show as much skin as possible” and suggested the images would not be shared. or recorded.
The emails included attachments of sample nude and semi-nude images of “Katie” to show what types of photos victims should send, according to court documents.
Investigators said they identified more than 10 victims of the so-called Body Development Study ruse and more than 300 associated nude and seminal photos in Mr Waithe’s email accounts.
Mr Waithe was fired from the University of the North East in February 2019 “following an academic investigation into his inappropriate conduct towards female student-athletes,” said Renata Nyul, spokesperson for the university, in a press release.
“Affected students were provided with resources for counseling and holistic support for their well-being,” she said, adding that university police had worked with federal law enforcement in the case.
Mr Waithe previously worked as a track and field coach at other academic institutions, including Penn State, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Tennessee and Concordia University in Chicago, according to the impeachment documents.
Calls to phone numbers associated with Mr Waithe’s name were not immediately forwarded on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.
The cyberstalking charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $ 250,000, according to the US attorney’s office.
The wire fraud charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $ 250,000, the office said.