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Ohio couple admits to extorting woman who embezzled $1 million from Bethany College

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An East Liverpool, Ohio, couple admitted they blackmailed a woman into stealing more than $1 million from her former employer, Bethany College.

Jason Kirkland Weese, 31, and his wife, Rachaelle, 26, pleaded guilty in federal court in Wheeling to extortion, admitting they used fear and threat of force to make Shelly Lough give them large sums of money, which she stole from the college, U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II said.

Lough previously admitted in Brooke County Circuit Court to embezzling $1,038,000 from Bethany and falsification of accounts, he said.

In addition to extortion, Jason Weese also pleaded guilty to money laundering, telling the court he used some of the money he extorted to buy a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro. The Weese's said they also bought a 2013 Mitsubishi Sport Utility Vehicle, a 2013 Honda All-Terrain Vehicle, as well as large amounts of prescription drugs, with the money they extorted.

Ihlenfeld said evidence introduced at the plea hearings established that Lough had exchanged sexually explicit messages and images with Jason Weese. The Ohio couple then told Lough they would turn over the images and messages to her husband if she didn't comply with their demands for cash. Lough gave them money until she lost her job at the college. When she could no longer pay the Weese's, Jason Weese threatened to burn down her Ohio County home, Ihlenfeld said.

Jason Weese faces up to 40 years in prison and his wife up to 20 years, Ihlenfeld said. They also must make full restitution to Bethany College, part of which will be satisfied through the liquidation of the vehicles they purchased with the stolen money.

Ihlenfeld handled the matter on behalf of the government. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department. U.S. Magistrate Judge James E. Seibert presided.