Chris 'Birdman' Andersen victim of internet catfish scheme
(Guardian Web Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) It seems that another high profile US sportsman has fallen victim to an internet "catfish" hoax.
Miami Heat's Chris "Birdman" Andersen won the NBA championship earlier this year but his life was far from perfect. Last year, when Andersen was playing for the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Sheriff's Office Internet Crimes Against Children team seized property from Andersen's home, leading to widespread speculation. The unit investigates "child porn, internet luring, child predators and child pornography".
At the time, the heavily-tattooed star's attorneys claimed he was the victim. Now more details of the case appear to reveal that Andersen was indeed a casualty of a complex internet impersonation scheme. 'Catfishing' is where internet scammers fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into romantic relationships.
Andersen's lawyer, Mark Bryant, told the Denver Post that the player was impersonated online by a Canadian woman. The hoaxer posed as the basketballer and sought relationships and gifts, and also threatened at least one person.
The Denver Post reports that a spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed that a woman from a small town in Manitoba had been charged in a case that was jointly investigated with the Douglas County Sheriff. The RCMP declined to confirm the identity of the hoaxer, who is believed to be Shelly Lynn Chartier, 29, who has been charged with a string of crimes, including possession and transmitting of child pornography, impersonation, extortion, and making threats.
Bryant told ESPN: "We were always confident that Chris was innocent but we just couldn't figure out what had happened. It turned out that it was a Manti Te'o situation. It was Manti Te'o on steroids."
Manti T'eo, who now plays for the San Diego Chargers, was the victim of a hoax involving a dead girlfriend just as he was becoming a college football star.
Andersen, who has a 'mohawk' hairstyle and a past which includes a drugs ban, joined the Miami Heat after leaving the Nuggets. He played a surprisingly key role in Miami's NBA playoffs run and has re-signed for the forthcoming season. But through last season speculation hovered around the basketballer.
The new revelations appear to answer questions about why the Internet Crimes Against Children unit searched Andersen's home in March last year. Andersen was not charged with a crime, and Bryant said that "there was no crime committed in Colorado".
A spokeswoman for the Douglas County District Attorney's office told the Denver Post: "Based on the information that we have been able to obtain and analyze we are not pursuing charges against Chris Andersen."
It appears that the 35-year-old veteran was threatened with retaliation by a young woman from California with whom he had a relationship. The woman apparently became upset when Andersen's interest in her waned. The woman's family demanded payment from Andersen. "I want him to pay for everything on her Amazon wishlist and 5k for her bedding stuff and her victoria secret wishlist," wrote a woman claiming to be the young woman's mother.
Andersen's lawyer now says the woman in California was also a victim of the woman in Canada and the message from the mother is now believed to have been written by the Canadian.
Andersen and the Californian only met once in person and Bryant said all online communication unknowingly flowed through the woman in Canada, who simultaneously impersonated both victims.
Bryant said the woman in Canada — posing as Andersen — threatened the woman in California with violence and with releasing offensive photos of the woman taken when she was under 18.
Andersen and his attorneys claimed last year that he had been chatting online with a young woman from Canada. She sent scantily clad photographs of herself. The woman traveled to Colorado, with ID proving she was over 21, but became angry when Andersen was not interested in pursuing a relationship. The woman then allegedly set up the catfish hoax. This woman, posing as Andersen, constructed the relationship with the woman from California, communicating with her and eventually making explicit demands. The Californian began to feel threatened and alerted authorities which is when the investigation into Andersen began.
Bryant told Sports Illustrated: "I can't tell you how much Chris agonized over the label placed on him. This has had an extraordinary effect on Chris ... He appreciates those who reserved judgment. He will continue to do what he's always done in life and that's turn something bad hopefully into something good."
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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