A track coach who left Northeastern after a sexual harassment investigation and was then hired by another university is facing several charges after allegedly duping female athletes to send him nude photographs in an elaborate social media scheme—and cyberstalking at least one of them.
Steve Waithe, 28, has been charged with cyberstalking and wire fraud after allegedly using several online aliases to “trick female then-current or former Northeastern University Track and Field athletes into sending him nude or semi-nude photos” by claiming their private photos had been posted online, prosecutors said. Authorities also allege Waithe cyberstalked at least one former Northeastern athlete, according to an affidavit unsealed on Wednesday.
He was arrested Wednesday in Chicago and is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon.
Prior to starting his coaching career, Waithe was a college athlete himself at Penn State University, competing in the Men’s Triple Jump Championship in 2014. Four years later, he joined Northeastern as an assistant coach for vertical jumps, after serving as an interim coach at the University of Tennessee, according to Northeastern’s website. Prosecutors state that Waithe also worked as a track and field coach at Penn State, Illinois Institute of Technology, and Concordia University in Chicago.
During his tenure at Northeastern, prosecutors allege, Waithe would regularly request to use his student-athletes cell phones, claiming that he needed to film “their form at practice and at meets.” While he sometimes did record their performances, he was also seen “scrolling through” their phones—and he allegedly stole their private nude photographs. On at least one occasion, he held on to one female athlete’s phone for several hours during a 2019 track and field meet at Harvard.
Prosecutors state Waithe’s actions escalated in 2020 when he began a scheme to trick current or former Northeastern female athletes to send him photographs by contacting them through Instagram. Waithe would tell them that he found “compromising photos of the victims online, and offered to ‘help’ them get the photos removed from the internet.”
“Waithe also sent examples of the compromising photos to the victims,” the affidavit states, adding that he sent about 100 Instagram messages to known victims.
“In perpetuating the scheme, Waithe repeatedly employed the same basic pattern of conduct: disclosure of compromising photos of the victim, a claim that the photos had been discovered online, and a request for additional photos.”
Prosecutors allege he used various pseudonyms to conduct his scheme, including “Privacy Protected,” “Katie Janovich,” and “anon.4887.”
In one conversation with a woman identified as “Victim 1,” Waithe identified himself as “Katie Janovick” and stated that he’d found compromising photos of her online. After sending Victim 1 photos of herself, Waithe wrote: “Sorry [,] I created this [anon.4887 Instagram] profile to help out don’t wanna be part of the drama.”
“Still presenting himself as ‘Katie Janovich,’ Waithe indicated that he had ‘screenshotted’ the photos, in a purported effort to ‘help.’ In addition to photos of Victim 1, Waithe also sent nude or semi-nude photos depicting other young women, including other female members of the Northeastern Track and Field team,” the affidavit states.
The affidavit states that after Victim 1 agreed to allow “Katie” to assist her in finding photos of her and her friends online, Waithe said: “Not until you send me pictures of you.” He allegedly repeatedly asked for photos of Victim 1, telling her “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.”
Prosecutors list similar stories for at least five other victims, detailing how for each woman Waithe would offer his services to delete the photos on the “dark web” or other parts of the internet by “image scrubbing” and “reverse image search.” lEach time, he would insist he helped other “Northeastern athletes” with similar problems.
When some of the women started to suspect Waithe was involved, the affidavit states, he began to use the same scheme to divert suspicion away from himself. Using his pseudonym “Privacy Protected,” Waithe told one victim that he had done some digging that found that “Steve Waithe” is not associated with the IP address that was taking the photographs.
“Can anyone track my fake Instagram account back to me,” Waithe allegedly searched in May 2020, an indicator that he was starting to get worried his scheme was unraveling.
About a month later, Waithe switched gears and began to allegedly cyberstalk at least one Northeastern student-athlete, identified as “Victim 6”. Prosecutors allege he sent messages to her from social media, an anonymized phone number, and Snapchat. Using the pseudonym “Privacy Protector,” Waithe also sent her at least seven “nude” or “semi-nude” photos of other victims under the pretense of trying to help her find the origin of her own photos. Waithe even contacted Victim 6’s boyfriend in desperate attempts to get more photos, prosecutors say.
The affidavit states that Waithe was accused of sexual harassment at Northeastern, which spurred a Title IX investigation before he eventually left in February 2019. Shortly after he departed the Boston school, he was then hired by Concordia University Chicago as an assistant track coach.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, a Concordia University Chicago spokesperson said that Waithe had only been employed as “an Assistant Track and Field Coach” for “less than four months, from Sept. 16, 2019 to Jan. 8, 2020” and the school wasn’t aware of any reports of misconduct in that time.
The school said they were reaching out to athletes who worked with Waithe “to notify them of the lawsuit and make them aware of the opportunity to cooperate with the federal investigation.” Northeastern did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.