Former Northeastern track, field coach charged in cyberstalking, fraud

BOSTON — Former Northeastern Track and Field Coach Steve Waithe, who has worked at various universities, was in federal court Wednesday, accused of tricking female student-athletes into using social media accounts to send him nude or semi-nude photos, and cyberstalking at least one female student-athlete.

The 28-year-old Waithe, of Chicago, is being held in custody until a detention hearing on Friday. He was charged with a criminal complaint with one count of cyberstalking and one count of wire fraud. Waithe was arrested in Chicago on April 7 and was in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois Wednesday afternoon.

During Wednesday’s hearing in Chicago, Boston 25 learned Waithe used several tactics, including posing as law enforcement to get student athletes to send him nude photos.

“Trust is one of the biggest things we have, especially on our team, we trust our coaches,” one student athlete told us.

Northeastern University said it fired Waithe in 2019 after their investigation found”... inappropriate conduct toward female student athletes. Impacted students were provided with resources for counseling and holistic support for their wellbeing.”

From October 2018 to February 2019, Waithe was employed as a track and field coach at Northeastern University. During that time, it’s believed that he frequently requested to use female athletes’ cellphones under the pretense that he would be filming their form during practice and meets, but on many occasions, he was found “scrolling through” the students’ phones.

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Waithe 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.

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office told Boston 25 that beginning in late February 2020, Waithe allegedly perpetrated a scheme to trick a female Northeastern student-athlete into sending him a nude or semi-nude photo of themselves.

Waithe contacted the student through social media accounts and claimed he found compromised photos of the student online and offered to “help” them remove them photos from online. He then requested photos from the student so he could purportedly use them for “reverse image searches.”

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

“I think it is scary that somebody who has hierarchy here is like doing that,” one student told Boston 25.

“Mr. Waithe was employed at Northeastern from October 2018 and terminated in February 2019 as a result of a university investigation into his inappropriate conduct toward female student-athletes. 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. We appreciate the diligence of the FBI and the US Attorney’s office and the actions that resulted today. The university does not comment on active litigation or criminal trials. All media inquiries should be referred to the United States Attorney’s office for the District of Massachusetts.”

—  Renata Nyul, VP of Communications at Northeastern University

In one instance, investigators said Waithe told a student, “You have to share with me basically every picture you have that you wouldn’t want on the Internet, which I know is uncomfortable but that’s the only way I can search them.”

Investigators said Waithe contacted the students, sometimes posing as an anonymous female, law enforcement or a social media company where he “claimed it was his job to do image scrubbing on the Internet.”

Investigators said Waite wrote to one student to send...”pictures of you nude currently that I can reference that could be used to help my reverse image search.” And goes on to say “people have ways to evade the detection of a reverse image search and explained that more detailed pictures were the only way I can stop that from happening.”

The investigation into Waithe revealed that his browsing history including 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?”

Waithe has no prior criminal record and he currently lives with his girlfriend in Chicago. At some point, he will appear in federal court here in Boston.

The sentence for cyberstalking could be up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The sentence for wire fraud could be up to 20 years in prison, three years on supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

If anyone is believed to be a victim of the allegations in this case, you can visit this website.

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