Ohio man sentenced for extorting more than $1 million from former Bethany College employee

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WHEELING, West Virginia — An Ohio man has been sentenced to five years and three months in prison for extorting more than $1 million from a former Bethany College employee.

Jason Kirkland Weese, 31, of East Liverpool, Ohio, also must pay more than $1 million in restitution, U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II said Monday in a news release announcing the sentence.

Weese had pleaded guilty in June to extortion conspiracy and aiding and abetting money laundering. He was accused of extorting the money from former Bethany College cashier Shelly Lough.

According to court records, Lough exchanged sexually explicit images and messages with Weese. She embezzled the money from the college to pay Weese and his wife, Rachaelle, after they threatened to give the images and messages to her husband.

Lough is serving a two- to 20-year sentence for embezzlement and falsifying accounts. She worked at Bethany between July 2011 and May 2013.

The embezzlement was discovered during an independent audit of school finances.

Rachaelle Weese is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in June to extortion conspiracy.

The Weeses purchased several items with the money, including a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro. Jason Weese must forfeit the Camaro, along with a 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander, an all-terrain vehicle and a lawnmower as part of his sentence, Ihlenfeld said.

Bethany College sued the U.S. government in October to recover $262,000 in cash seized during the investigation. The complaint said that the government knew, "or reasonably should have known," of Bethany's interest in the money.

Bethany is a small private liberal arts college 20 miles northeast of Wheeling.

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