BETHANY, W. Va. (KDKA) — A woman from West Virginia is accused of stealing $1 million from Bethany College, all to keep her alleged online affair a secret. But when she tried to end it, things turned worse.
Bethany College, a private institution that sits on 1,300 acres in West Virginia, is known as the small college of national distinction. But now the school is known for something else, the alleged pick-up location for blackmail money.
It happened more than a dozen times.
Shelly Lough, 46, is the former cashier at Bethany College.
Bethany College Senior Vice President Sven De Jong told KDKA’s Brenda Waters that Lough had access to millions of dollars.
“She oversaw the cashier window, which operated at Bethany much like a bank,” said De Jong. “Given the rural location of the college, we have no banking services in the town of Bethany. So, for many years, it was an ongoing practice where students, faculty and staff could cash their checks.”
Lough held that position for six years, and then she met a man online and things went terribly wrong.
She told authorities the $1 million she stole over two fiscal years was used to pay off 31-year-old Jason Weese and his 26-year-old wife, Rachaelle.
Authorities say the Ohio couple was allegedly blackmailing Lough, threatening to tell her husband about an online affair she was having with Jason, which included sexually explicit text messages and pictures.
The FBI says initially Lough paid Weese installments of $9,000, but then he wanted more.
The couple bought vehicles, jewelry and other items, and when the FBI raided their home, $262,000 was found inside.
Since the theft, the school has shut down the cashier window, and now uses local banks. ATM machines have also been place on campus.
School officials say the million loss had no adverse financial impact, but Bethany is actively seeking those stolen funds.
Meanwhile, the Weeses appeared in federal court, the same day Lough pled guilty.
Lough will be sentenced next month.