Former university track & field coach arrested & charged in cyberstalking, fraud scheme targeting female athletes

College Sports

CHICAGO (WATE) — A former track and field coach who had previously worked at the University of Tennessee was arrested and charged Wednesday for what federal prosecutors allege to be cyber crimes targeting female athletes with the use of fake social media and email accounts.

The defendant, Steve Waithe, 28, of Chicago, Ill. was arrested in Chicago and is facing charges including cyberstalking and wire fraud. The criminal complaint details the alleged crimes took place between at least February 2020 and April 2021.

University of Tennessee officials confirmed to WATE 6 On Your Side that Steve Waithe was a coach at UT for the 2017-18 track season and had left for another career opportunity.

“Since learning of the allegations Wednesday related to his time at another university, we have conducted a preliminary review of our files and found no reports of possible misconduct while at UT.

We take any allegation of misconduct seriously and would urge anyone who may have been a victim of his alleged behavior to contact the FBI through https://fbi.gov/TFCoach.”

Tom Satkowiak
Associate Athletic Director for Communications
University of Tennessee

According to charging documents out of Massachusetts, Waithe was employed as a track and field coach at Northeastern University in Boston from October 2018 to February 2019. Allegedly during that time, Waithe frequently requested to use female athletes’ cellphones under the pretense of filming their form at practice and at meets. At times, he was observed “scrolling through” the phones.

Charging documents also allege 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.

Claiming to be part of an “athlete research” or a “body development” study, it is alleged that Waithe emailed prospective victims using different personas.

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 that pretense, it is alleged that Waithe requested more nude or semi-nude photos that he could claim 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.  

Court documents also state the emails from personas 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.

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

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