Ex-Northeastern University track coach accused of tricking female athletes into sending him nude photos

BOSTON (WHDH) – A former Northeastern University track and field coach was arrested Wednesday in connection with a scheme to trick female student-athletes into sending him nude photos through sham social media accounts, authorities said.

Steve Waithe, 28, of Chicago, Ill., is facing charges of cyberstalking and wire fraud, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

He was set to make an initial appearance in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois Wednesday afternoon and will appear in Boston at a later date.

Waithe worked as a track and field coach at Northeastern University in Boston from October 2018 to February 2019, and would frequently ask to use female athletes’ cellphones under the pretense of filming their form at practice and meets, charging documents read.

He was allegedly observed scrolling through the phones at times.

Beginning in at least February 2020, Waithe created a scheme to trick female athletes into sending him nude or semi-nude photos of themselves by going through their social media accounts, telling them that he had found compromising photos of them online, and offering to help get the photos removed from the internet, charging documents continued.

He allegedly would request additional nude or semi-nude photos that he could use for “reverse image searches.”

Waithe also allegedly used various pseudonyms on social media including variations of the phrase “Privacy Protector,” “Katie Janovich,” and “Anon” followed by various numbers.

From around 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, according to charging documents.

Internet search and browsing history tied to Waithe reportedly 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?”

In addition, Waithe allegedly emailed prospective victims using the personas of “Katie Janovich” and/or “Kathryn Svoboda” about a fake study for athletes and requested information relating to height, weight, and diet habits.

He 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, charging documents read.

The emails reportedly often included attachments of sample nude and semi-nude images of “Katie” to illustrate the types of photos that victims should send.

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 court 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.

In a statement, a Northeastern spokesperson said, “Impacted students were provided with resources for counseling and holistic support for their wellbeing. The Northeastern University Police Department also alerted federal law enforcement officials and worked in full cooperation for the duration of the federal investigation.”

Anyone who believes they may be a victim of the allegations in this case is asked to visit the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts website.

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