Bethany College case may top $1M

WHEELING – Law enforcement officials now believe Shelly Lough took in excess of $1 million from Bethany College in an effort to keep another woman quiet about an alleged affair.

That woman, Rachelle Weese, 26, of Cricket Lane, Calcutta, was escorted Friday to a waiting FBI vehicle outside her home by St. Clair Township Police Chief Don Hyatt after FBI and township officers converged on the house in the early afternoon. She faces a federal charge of extortion.

According to William J. Ihlenfeld II, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, the charge alleges Weese used violence or fear to extort money from Lough, of West Liberty, who is the former manager of the cashier’s office at Bethany College.

The criminal complaint against Weese alleges she threatened to reveal to Lough’s husband that Lough was in a relationship outside her marriage if she did not pay money.

Although reports in October indicated the amount allegedly taken by Lough to be about $500,000, Ihlenfeld said Friday it now appears the amount may have been more than $1 million.

“A lot of money was taken from Bethany,” Ihlenfeld said. “We’re trying to account for all of it. We’ve got a number that’s substantial. We may never account for all of it.”

He said Lough allegedly began taking the money to satisfy the threats being made by Weese, not before.

Although the exact amount Weese was paid in the alleged extortion attempt is not known, Ihlenfeld said the FBI has accounted for various sums which add up to a “substantial” amount. So far, the agency has identified from business records and other means some of Weese’s assets, including paying $35,000 cash for a new SUV and some “very expensive” jewelry totaling more than $25,000.

A search warrant executed last year at Weese’s home also turned up $262,000 in cash suspected to have come from Lough, Ihlenfeld said.

Ihlenfeld would neither confirm nor deny that the man involved in the alleged relationship with Lough was Weese’s husband.

Weese appeared Friday before U.S. Magistrate James Siebert and had a preliminary hearing set for Feb. 28 before being released on bond.