Track coach pleads guilty in federal court to tricking women into sending him nude photos
BOSTON (AP) — A former college track and field coach accused of setting up sham social media and email accounts in an attempt to trick women into sending him nude or semi-nude photos of themselves pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Steve Waithe, 30, of Chicago, pleaded guilty to 12 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and one count of computer fraud, prosecutors said.
Waithe also pleaded guilty to cyberstalking one victim through text messages and direct messages sent via social media, as well as by hacking into her Snapchat account, prosecutors said.
A lawyer for Waithe did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 6, 2024. Waithe was originally arrested in April.
Acting United States Attorney Joshua Levy called Waithe’s behavior despicable.
“For almost a year, he manipulated, exploited and in one case stalked young women across the county hiding behind a web of anonymized social media accounts and fabricated personas he engineered. Mr. Waithe maliciously invaded the lives of dozens of innocent victims and inflicted real trauma,” Levy said in a statement.
Waithe 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.
While a track coach at Northeastern, Waithe requested the cell phones of female student-athletes under the pretense of filming them at practice and at meets, instead covertly sending himself explicit photos of the women that had previously been saved on their phones, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said starting as early as February 2020, Waithe used the sham social media accounts to contact women, saying he had found compromising photos of them online.
He would then offer to help the women get the photos removed from the internet, asking them to send additional nude or semi-nude photos that he could purportedly use for “reverse image searches,” prosecutors said.
Waithe also invented at least two female personas — “Katie Janovich” and “Kathryn Svoboda” — to obtain nude and semi-nude photos of women under the purported premise of an “athlete research” or “body development” study, investigators said.
A review of Waithe’s browser history also uncovered searches such as “Can anyone trace my fake Instagram account back to me?” and “How to Hack Someones Snapchat the Easy Way,” prosecutors said.