A former Northeastern University track and field coach who had been fired after multiple sexual harassment complaints has been arrested and charged with stealing nude photos from six student athletes and trying to dupe them into sending more.
Authorities charged Steve Waithe, 28, from Chicago, with cyberstalking and wire fraud on Wednesday, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Waithe worked as a coach at Northeastern from October 2018 to February 2019. The university said Waithe was fired “as a result of a university investigation into his inappropriate conduct toward female student athletes.”
The campus police department also alerted federal law enforcement officials and “worked in full cooperation for the duration of the federal investigation,” the university added.
The criminal complaint filed in federal court on Wednesday said that during his time as an athletics coach at Northeastern, Waithe regularly requested student athletes give him their cellphones during practice and at meets so that he could film their form. However, he was also observed “scrolling through” personal photos while he claimed he was recording video.
A year after his employment was terminated following a Title IX investigation into complaints of sexual harassment, authorities allege he used a social media scheme to attempt to dupe female students whose photos he stole into sending him more.
Authorities say Waithe used pseudonyms, including “Katie Janovich,” “Kathryn Svoboda,” “Privacy Protector,” and “Anon” (followed by numbers), and contacted at least five members of the track team beginning in at least February 2020. In his messages, he allegedly pretended to be a girl who’d also had her nudes stolen, or said that he was working to remove stolen nude photos of women off the internet.
According to the complaint, Waithe told the women he had found compromising photos of them (and would prove this by sending the images). He would then offer to help get the images taken down, but that he needed additional photos to conduct reverse image searches, prosecutors say.
In one instance, authorities said Waithe sent 18 semi-nude photos of a victim to her but demanded more photos in order to help her, claiming he had “hundreds” more.
“I’ll send you all the personal ones if you send me you[;] that’s the only way[.] I also saw another girl that you might know too. But only if you send yours,” authorities said Waithe wrote while pretending to be Katie. “You should send me one of you then.”
According to the complaint, he used a similar technique for the second victim in June 2020, contacting her on Instagram under the “privacy protector” name and claiming it was his “job” to help people scrub nude photos off the internet. He asked the victim for “pictures of you nude currently that I can use as reference.”
In one encounter, Waithe even mentioned his own name, telling a woman that another victim had suggested the person who stole the nude photos of them could be called “Steve.”
“Do you know a Steve that it could be that we can investigate?” he asked, pretending to be someone investigating why all their nude photos had been stolen. “I did some digging. Can you confirm something for me. … Is the Steve you were talking about Steve Waithe?” he later asked.
The five women mentioned in the complaint did not send additional photos.
In October 2020, authorities said Waithe hacked into the Snapchat account of a sixth student athlete and stole two nude photos she’d only shared with her boyfriend.
Using an Instagram account, authorities said Waithe sent the photos to the victim’s boyfriend and said, “do these look familiar?”
The day before the Snapchat account was hacked, authorities found multiple searches on Waithe’s computer, including “how to hack someone’s Snapchat” and “hacked snapchat nudes.”
In a separate scheme to get nude and semi-nude photos from student athletes, authorities say Waithe again used the “Katie Janovich” name to claim he was doing a phony “body development” or “athlete research” study.
“My name is Katie, Steve told me to reach out to you in hopes for you to help us with our research!” the emails began, and then asked for height, weight, and eating habits.
The fake study claimed respondents had to send a photo of themselves in a “uniform or bathing suit to show as much skin as possible.” It went on to say, “Most women have just sent a bunch of pictures in a bra and a thong because it shows the most. Regular deep cut bras are best if you want to go topless that’s best women have done that too because the easiest places the body usually shows changes is the butt and the breasts."
The criminal complaint states that investigators have found at least 10 victims of the body development scam and that Waithe had over 300 nude and semi-nude photos in his Google account.
Waite has worked as a coach at a number of colleges, including Penn State University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Tennessee, Northeastern University, and Concordia University Chicago.
The FBI is asking any potential victims to contact investigators.