Steve Waithe, a former college track and field coach at Northeastern University and a former All-American jumper at Penn State University, was arrested and charged on Wednesday by federal authorities for "a scheme to trick female student-athletes, through sham social media accounts, into sending him nude or semi-nude photos," the U.S. Attorney's Office announced on Wednesday.
Waithe's charges carry potential combined sentences of up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $500,00. Waithe is also alleged to have cyberstalked at least one athlete at a former school.
The 28-year-old was arrested in Chicago and appeared in federal court this week. He reportedly worked as a coach previously at Penn State University, the Illinois Institute of of Technology, the University of Tennessee and Concordia University, Chicago. Waithe was a former college athlete at Penn State.
Waithe worked at Northeastern University as a horizontal jumps coach from October of 2018 to February 2019.
The U.S. Attorney's office alleges he "frequently requested to use female athletes' cellphones under the pretense of filming their form at practice and at meets," and then could be seen "scrolling through" the phones.
Details into the charges, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, include:
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 are a victim of any of the allegations, please contact the Justice Department here.