Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016
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BETHANY COLLEGE

Ohio couple admits to extortion scheme

School cashier paid $1M to hide affair

BETHANY, W.Va. — An Eastern Ohio woman reported to jail Monday after she and her husband admitted that they extorted $1 million from a former Bethany College cashier in a bizarre blackmail scheme centered on a clandestine online affair.

Rachaelle Weese, 26, and her husband, Jason Weese, 31, both from East Liverpool, pleaded guilty last week in federal court to blackmailing Shelly Lough, who stole the money from her employer to meet their demands in order to keep her relationship with Jason Weese a secret from her husband.

Lough, 46, of Wheeling, W.Va., admitted that she embezzled the cash to pay off the Weeses, and she would have been the government’s main witness had they elected to go to trial. Lough’s husband would also have been a witness, as would Rachaelle Weese’s sister.

The case has its origins in a text that Jason Weese mistakenly sent to Lough in 2011. William Ihlenfeld, the U.S. attorney in Wheeling, said it was a random message, but she responded. Eventually the two began exchanging explicit messages and pictures of body parts.

The relationship never became physical, but after Lough broke it off in October, 2012, prosecutors said, the Weeses began to threaten her and demand payments.

The extortion was Jason Weese’s idea, prosecutors said, but Rachaelle Weese went along with it and enjoyed the proceeds.

Lough, who had access to cash straight from the bank, stole thousands at a time and met with Jason Weese regularly to make the transactions at Bethany College and a couple of times at a local McDonald’s.

Lough kept making the payments until she lost her job. When she couldn’t pay anymore, Jason Weese threatened to burn her house, according to the FBI.

The Weeses both pleaded guilty to extortion. Jason Weese also pleaded guilty to laundering money in connection with a 2013 Chevy Camaro that he bought with some of the cash he received from the scheme.

The couple also admitted they used stolen money to buy a 2013 Mitsubishi SUV, a 2013 Honda ATV, and “large amounts of prescription drugs,” officials said.

As part of their plea, the Weeses were ordered to make full restitution to Bethany College. Some of that money will come from liquidation of assets.

A federal judge on Friday revoked Rachaelle Weese’s bond and ordered her to report to jail Monday while she awaits her sentence. Jason Weese remains free pending sentencing.

Lough was prosecuted on state charges of embezzlement and falsification of records and admitted she stole $1,038,000. She is serving 2 to 20 years.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Torsten Ove is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Torsten Ove at: tove@post-gazette.com, or 412-263-1510.

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