WELLSBURG, W.Va. — The prosecutor in Brooke County said Wednesday the sentencing this week of a former cashier at Bethany College is an example of cyber-based crimes prosecutors now have to be prepared to prosecute.
Shelly Lough, 46, of Wheeling, was sentenced to 2-20 years in prison for embezzling approximately $1.03 million from Bethany from July 2011 to May 2013.
Lough had on online relationship with Ohio resident Jason Weese who later, along with his wife Rachaelle Weese, threatened to expose the details of the relationship to Lough’s husband if Lough didn’t pay them off.
“What used to be a face-to-face interaction between men and women is often conducted over the internet and that’s something we’ve had to adjust to,” Brooke County Prosecutor Joe Barki told MetroNews.
The Weeses have been charged in federal court and their trial is scheduled for Aug. 5.
Barki said Lough was blackmailed but that’s no excuse for her actions.
“She put herself in a compromising position with both of these individuals and that led to them to extorting money from her and she paid them by stealing money from Bethany College,” the prosecutor said.
Barki added a college the size of Bethany is hurt by such a theft.
“No institution, no matter how big, is not going to feel that,” Barki maintained. “Bethany College obviously is not Wal-Mart and they don’t have that kind of money in their endowment that that doesn’t put a hurt on their financial situation.”
He said future donors to Bethany may also question things.
“When something like this happens it hurts the students that attend there, it hurts the faculty and it hinders the alumni that are active in the Bethany College community,” Prosecutor Barki said.
Investigators said Lough and Jason Weese never had physical contact but sexted one another and sent pictures of body parts.