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Press Release

Former College Track and Field Coach Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Sextortion, Cyberstalking, and Cyber Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Defendant targeted at least 128 women and continued to engage in conduct after indictment

BOSTON – A former college track and field coach was sentenced today in federal court in Boston in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain thousands of explicit photos from over 100 women across the country through the use of nearly two dozen sham social media and email accounts. The defendant cyberstalked one female student-athlete and orchestrated another scheme to gain unauthorized access to other victims’ Snapchat accounts. 

The defendant previously worked as a track and field coach at several academic institutions, including Northeastern University, Penn State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Tennessee and Concordia University Chicago.

Steve Waithe, 31, formerly of Chicago, Ill., and Somerville, Mass., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris to five years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Among the terms of his supervised release conditions, Waithe will be prohibited from taking any jobs in which he could serve as a coach, teacher, mentor, or any similar role involving women or girls and his internet usage will be strictly monitored by probation. In November 2023, Waithe pleaded guilty to 12 counts of wire fraud; one count of cyberstalking; one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud; and one count of computer fraud, aiding and abetting. Waithe was arrested and charged by criminal complaint in April 2021 and subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2021. 

“This defendant’s conduct is deplorable. He exploited his trusted role as a coach to college athletes to engage in a sextortion campaign that has left a trail of emotional devastation in its wake. We stand by the courageous victims who came forward and help this Office hold Mr. Waithe accountable. The array of on-line threats is striking, and this Office will be vigilant in investigating and prosecuting those who sexually exploit victims,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. 

“The depth of deceit demonstrated by Steve Waithe in this case is deeply disturbing. This predator readily betrayed the trust of over 50 women, tricking them into sending him explicit photos which he then used to exploit and extort them. His reprehensible actions inflicted significant anguish on these victims who were living in fear of being so personally exposed,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Today’s sentence shows that cyberstalking and sextortion is not some sick game, they’re serious crimes, and the FBI will continue to unmask and hold accountable anyone who uses today’s technology in such a vile way.”

While a track coach at Northeastern University, Waithe requested the cell phones of female student-athletes under the pretense of “filming their form” at practices and meets and then covertly sending himself explicit photos of the victims that had previously been saved on their phones.

Approximately one year later in  February 2020, and after he no longer worked at Northeastern University, Waithe began perpetrating an evolving series of schemes to deceive women into sending him nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. 

In total, Waithe victimized at least 56 women and attempted to victimize 72 more. Waithe used anonymized social media accounts with usernames like “anon.4887” and variations of the phrase “Privacy Protector” to contact prospective victims, including some of the same student-athletes from the Northeastern University track and field team, claiming that he had “found” compromising photos of them online and offering to “help” get the photos removed from the internet. Waithe also requested additional nude or semi-nude photos from victims that he could purportedly use for “reverse image searches.” Notably, none of the Northeastern University student-athletes were tricked by this scheme, though Waithe continued to try it on new prospective victims.

Further, Waithe fabricated at least two female personas, “Katie Janovich” and “Kathryn Svoboda,” in an effort to obtain additional nude and/or semi-nude photos of women. Under the purported premise of an “athlete research” or “body development” study, Waithe emailed prospective victims pretending to be “Katie” or “Kathryn” with email accounts in their names. The emails described a phony study for athletes and requested information relating to height, weight, body fat and diet habits. The emails also included a request for the victims to send photos of themselves in order to “track their progress” and recommended that the photos show the women in a “uniform or bathing suit to show as much skin as possible.” The emails often included attachments of sample nude and semi-nude images to illustrate the types of photos that victims should send. 

Investigators identified 22 sham online accounts across at least seven different platforms used by Waithe and hundreds of photos sent by dozens of victims who thought they were emailing someone conducting a legitimate research study.

Waithe also cyberstalked one victim, from at least June 2020 to October 2020, through text messages and direct messages sent via social media, as well as by hacking into her Snapchat account. He texted and sent nude photos of the victim to the victim’s boyfriend, 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.” Over the course of five months, Waithe sent harassing and intimidating messages to the victim and her boyfriend. The messages included explicit photos that Waithe had stolen from the victim’s phone when she was on the track and field team at Northeastern.  

In October 2020, Waithe conspired with another individual to hack into Snapchat accounts, ultimately gaining access to at least one account and its private “My Eyes Only” folder that contained nude and/or semi-nude photos. Additionally, Waithe provided his co-conspirator with the usernames and phone numbers for the Snapchat accounts of at least 15 women. Waithe and his co-conspirator then used this information to craft and send text messages purporting to be from the “Snapchat Support Team” and requesting security information, through which they gained access to at least one account.

The investigation revealed that Waithe’s internet browsing history included visits to webpages with titles like, “Can anyone trace my fake Instagram account back to me?” and “How to Hack Someones Snapchat the Easy Way.” Waithe’s search history also included searches for, among other things, “how to hack snapchat with a username and phone number.”

Waithe distributed some of the stolen images on websites where stolen and so-called “leaked” photos are posted, shared, and traded. In one post, Waithe wrote, “Does anyone want to trade nudes? I’m talking girls you actually know. Could be exes or whatever. I have quite a few and [am] down to trade over snap[chat] or something.” In total, Waithe posted or otherwise offered to trade images of victims on no fewer than 55 occasions.

After being released on conditions following his arrest in April 2021, Waithe continued to engage in virtually identical conduct while under pre-trial supervision. Specifically, Waithe accessed his Instagram account on more than a hundred occasions, soliciting new prospective victims and requesting that they send him photos of themselves via direct messages. In one Instagram conversation in late May and early June 2022 – approximately one year after his initial charge and arrest in this case, and months after being indicted by a federal grand jury – Waithe complimented a young woman via Instagram direct message and offered to pay her in exchange for allowing him to make “drawings” using photos of her. In another Instagram conversation with a separate prospective victim in June 2022, Waithe told a young woman that she is in “such great shape” and offered her $50 to participate in a “study.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Levy and FBI SAC Cohen 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 W. Deitch of the Criminal Division prosecuted the case.

Updated March 6, 2024