BOSTON – A former track and field coach at various universities was arrested and charged today in connection with a scheme to trick female student-athletes, through sham social media accounts, into sending him nude or semi-nude photos. The defendant also allegedly cyberstalked at least one female student-athlete.
Steve Waithe, 28, of Chicago, Ill., was charged by criminal complaint with one count of cyberstalking and one count of wire fraud. Waithe was arrested today in Chicago and will make an initial appearance in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois this afternoon. He will appear in Boston at a later date.
According to charging documents, Waithe was employed as a track and field coach at Northeastern University in Boston from October 2018 to February 2019. It is alleged that during that time, Waithe frequently requested to use female athletes’ cellphones under the pretense of filming their form at practice and at meets. At times, he was observed “scrolling through” the phones.
Beginning in at least February 2020, Waithe allegedly perpetrated a scheme to dupe female Northeastern University track and field athletes into sending him nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. Specifically, Waithe contacted the alleged victims through social media accounts, stated that he had found compromising photos of them online and offered to “help” get the photos removed from the internet. Under this pretense, it is alleged that Waithe requested additional nude or semi-nude photos that he could purportedly use for “reverse image searches.” He used various pseudonyms on social media including variations of the phrase “Privacy Protector,” “Katie Janovich,” and “Anon” followed by various numbers.
As detailed in court documents, from at least June 21, 2020 to Oct. 3, 2020, Waithe cyberstalked at least one female Northeastern student-athlete through messages sent via social media, an anonymized phone number and intrusion into her Snapchat account. The investigation revealed that internet search and browsing history tied to Waithe allegedly included searches for information on how to hack Snapchat accounts and visits to webpages with titles like, “Can anyone trace my fake Instagram account back to me?”
Under the purported premise of an “athlete research” or “body development” study, it is alleged that Waithe emailed prospective victims using the personas of “Katie Janovich” and/or “Kathryn Svoboda.” The emails described a phony study for athletes and requested information relating to height, weight and diet habits. The emails also included a request for the victims to send photos of themselves in a “uniform or bathing suit to show as much skin as possible” and suggested that the photos would not be shared or saved. The emails often included attachments of sample nude and semi-nude images of “Katie” to illustrate the types of photos that victims should send. According to court documents, investigators have identified more than 10 victims of the “body development study” scheme and over 300 related nude and semi-nude images of victims of the scheme in Waithe’s email accounts.
According to charging documents, Waithe previously worked as a track and field coach at several academic institutions, including Penn State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Tennessee and Concordia University Chicago.
If you believe that you may be a victim of the allegations in this case, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/victim-and-witness-assistance-program/us-v-steven-waithe
The charge of cyberstalking provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Office made the announcement today. The Northeastern University Police Department provided substantial assistance with the investigation; the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Chicago Police Department also provided valuable assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Deitch of Mendell’s Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.