Ex-coach gets 5 years in US prison for duping women in nude photo scheme

FILE PHOTO: Exterior of John Jospeh Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) - A former Northeastern University track-and-field coach was sentenced on Wednesday to five years in prison for engaging in a series of schemes to dupe young women at the school and elsewhere into sending him nude photos or steal such images from them.

Steve Waithe, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Patti Saris in Boston after pleading guilty in November to fraud and cyberstalking charges related to a vast exploitation scheme that prosecutors say he perpetrated against 56 women nationally.

Prosecutors had requested seven years in prison. Waithe's attorney did not respond to a request for comment, but in a letter Waithe sent the judge ahead of sentencing, the Chicago resident said he was "filled with nothing but remorse."

Waithe worked at Northeastern in Boston from October 2018 to February 2019, when the university fired him. He previously coached at Penn State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Tennessee and Concordia University Chicago.

Prosecutors said that while at Northeastern, Waithe asked female athletes if he could use their cellphones to take video of them during practices and meets, and would then covertly look for photos of the women that he sent to himself.

After leaving Northeastern, Waithe contacted six athletes using Instagram accounts with names like "privacyprotecter" saying he had found compromising photos of them online and wanted to "help" remove them from the internet, prosecutors said.

They said Waithe sent the women nude or semi-nude photos he had stolen and requested they send additional ones so he could conduct "reverse image searches."

None provided photos. But, with the help of hackers, Waithe tried to access 68 women's Snapchat accounts and successfully over a dozen times stole images or videos, including of a Northeastern athlete he cyberstalked, prosecutors said.

Under aliases, Waithe also emailed women in various U.S. states for a phony "body development" study and requested photos of them in a "uniform or bathing suit to show as much skin as possible," prosecutors said. They said at least 36 women sent him over 400 photos.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Sandra Maler)