Prosecutors add more charges in Bethany College extortion scheme

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The U.S. attorney’s office in Wheeling has brought additional charges against an Ohio couple accused of blackmailing a West Virginia woman who admitted she stole more than $1 million from Bethany College to pay them off so they wouldn’t reveal her online affair with the man to her husband.

In a 15-count superseding indictment filed this week against Jason and Rachaelle Weese, of Calcutta, Ohio, prosecutors added seven counts of interstate communication in furtherance of extortion and two counts related to receipt and laundering of illegal proceeds.

The laundering charge pertains to five vehicles that federal agents say the couple bought with the proceeds from the scheme, all of which will be subject to forfeiture.

The vehicles include a $45,000 Chevy Camaro, a $43,000 Ford tow truck and a $35,000 Mitsubishi Outlander.

The FBI said the couple systematically extorted Shelly Lough, 46, of Wheeling, a cashier at Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va., who admitted in a state court last month that she stole from the school to meet their demands.

Agents said Ms. Lough had a secret online relationship with Mr. Weese, 31, but ended it in October 2012.

After that, according to the indictment, the Weeses began threatening her and demanding cash payments in exchange for giving her evidence of the affair that Mr. Weese had stored on cell phones and other digital media devices, such as texts and images of body parts.

Prosecutors said Mr. Weese and Ms. Lough never had a physical relationship; the entire affair was conducted through texts and online.

Ms. Lough pleaded guilty to embezzlement and will be a government witness against the Weeses.

Prosecutors had previously moved to forfeit $690,000 in cash and jewelry seized from the couple.


Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510. First Published March 19, 2014 11:34 AM

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