W.Va.'s Bethany College sues US government to recover $262,000 seized in theft case

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MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — A West Virginia college is suing the U.S. government in federal court for funds seized during a theft investigation.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in the northern district of West Virginia, Bethany College sued the U.S. for $262,020. The complaint alleges that the cash was forfeited to U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency investigators. The complaint says the money should be set aside for the college.

The forfeited funds are related to a criminal case in which Bethany employee Shelly Lough stole in excess of $1 million from the college's petty cash window, where she worked as a cashier. Lough pleaded guilty in April to embezzlement and falsifying accounts. She's serving two to 20 years at Northern Regional Jail outside Moundsville.

According to court records, Lough exchanged sexually explicit images and messages with Jason Weese, 31, of Moundsville. She embezzled from the college to pay off Weese and his wife after they threatened to give the images and messages to her husband, prosecutors say.

Bethany claims the DEA did not tell administrators that the Weeses had forfeited funds.

"The government knew, or reasonably should have known, of Bethany's interest in the currency and failed to take steps reasonably calculated to provide Bethany with notice," the complaint reads.

Jason Weese and his wife, Rachaelle Weese, have not yet been sentenced. Jason Weese pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy and aiding and abetting money laundering and faces up to 40 years. Rachaelle Weese pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy and faces up to 20.

Bethany is a small private liberal arts college 20 miles northeast of Wheeling. It enrolls 910 full-time students, according to its website.

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