BOSTON — A former Northeastern University track-and-field coach pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges involving a scheme to trick female student athletes across the country into sending him nude or semi-nude photos and cyberstalking at least one female student-athlete.
Steve Waithe, 30, of Chicago, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court to 12 counts of wire fraud, cyberstalking, and computer fraud related to a vast effort to trick dozens of young women across the country, using more than a dozen sham social media and email accounts, into sending him compromising photos, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
“Mr. Waithe’s conduct is despicable. For almost a year, he manipulated, exploited and in one case stalked young women across the county hiding behind a web of anonymized social media accounts and fabricated personas he engineered. Mr. Waithe maliciously invaded the lives of dozens of innocent victims and inflicted real trauma. He now knows no one can hide from justice – even anonymously behind a keyboard. Protecting our communities is one of the highest priorities for this office and we will use every tool at our disposal to ensure predators like Mr. Waithe face the full consequences of their actions.”
— Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy.
Prosecutors said that beginning in February 2020, Waithe anonymously messaged six Northeastern track and field athletes through fake Instagram accounts, like “Privacy Protector” and “Anon,” saying he found nude photos of them online. He then told the woman if they sent him more photos, he could do “reverse image” searches and scrub any trace from the internet, according to investigators.
Waithe was a track and field coach at Northeastern University from October 2018 to February 2019, when he was fired. During his time at the school, Waithe frequently requested to use female athletes’ cellphones under the pretense that he would be filming their form during practice and meets and would then covertly look for explicit photos of the women that he sent to himself, according to prosecutors.
He also previously worked as a track and field coach at several other academic institutions, including Penn State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Tennessee, and Concordia University Chicago.
Waithe’s scheming did not stop there. Using various Google accounts with fake names such as “Katie Janovich” and “Kathryn Svoboda,” he emailed dozens of women throughout the country to participate in a completely made-up “body development” study.
The emails asked the women to provide pictures in a “uniform or bathing suit to show as much skin as possible.” While many went unanswered, Waithe received more than 350 revealing photos from dozens of victims, according to investigators.
Waithe also cyberstalked one Northeastern athlete, from at least June 2020 to October 2020, hacking into her Snapchat account. With that access, Waithe obtained more nude photos of the woman, which he sent to her boyfriend through anonymous Instagram messages stating, “I wanted to make you aware that someone hacked your girlfriend’s Snapchat account and will leak it soon. I need your help to assure this does not happen,” federal prosecutors said.
He will be back in court for sentencing on March 6, 2024.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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