Miami Heat forward Chris Andersen, better known as “Birdman,” is reportedly the latest athlete to become the victim of a “catfish” scheme.
Douglas County District Attorney’s office revealed on Wednesday that Andersen would not face charges in connection with a 2012 Internet Crimes Against Children investigation, the Denver Post reports. Turns out the NBA player was himself a victim, as Mark Bryant, the office’s spokesperson, said that “Birdman” had been “catfished,” or impersonated in an online setting, by a Canadian woman with whom he had engaged in a sexual relationship.
Bryant declined to release the name of the “catfish” but said that the woman had impersonated Andersen while communicating with several individuals, the Denver Post reports. The woman allegedly “sought relationships and gifts” from her victims, and levied threats against at least one person. In addition, the woman posed as other people in her ongoing communications with Andersen.
"It is my understanding that this case involves numerous victims," Bryant said, according to the Denver Post. "Chris was a victim in this case."
In a separate statement, a spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Manitoba confirmed that a joint investigation by the RCMP and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office had led to an arrest. Shelly Lynn Chartier, 29, faces charges of possession and transmitting of child pornography, personation, extortion and making threats, the Denver Post reports. While the spokeswoman wouldn’t confirm if Andersen was the victim in the Chartier case, she did acknowledge that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation.
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At the time of the incident, Andersen, 35, was playing for the Denver Nuggets, Sports Illustrated reports. Although he was mostly a reserve, his absence from a 2012 playoff game was noteworthy—especially when the reason behind his nonappearance was revealed. Local sheriff’s deputies said Andersen was the subject of an investigation by an Internet Crimes Against Children unit, Sports Illustrated reports. He wasn’t arrested or charged with a crime, but authorities refused to reveal the nature of the case due to an ongoing investigation.
In May 2012, Andersen’s legal team claimed the NBA player was innocent of any crimes, that he had been targeted by an extortionist, Deadspin notes. According to his attorneys, Anderson “communicated” with an underage California woman who claimed to be 21 and later produced documents to “authenticate” her age. However, when Andersen’s interest in her waned, the woman reportedly threatened to “retaliate” if he didn’t pay her off.
According to Sports Illustrated, Anderson’s attorneys now believe that their client was “catfished” by Chartier, who allegedly posed as the extortionist mother of Anderson’s alleged underage victim while simultaneously extorting the girl’s actual mother. Furthermore, the “catfish” reportedly had access to Andersen's cell phone, social media accounts, bank records and email. SI’s account of the events reads as follows:
“Posing as Andersen, the Canadian woman allegedly orchestrated the initial tryst between the player and the California woman. She then began communicating and corresponding with the woman from California. At one point, representing herself as Andersen, the imposter began making demands -- some of them, sources say, sexually explicit -- of the California woman.”
Colorado’s 18th Judicial District Court is reportedly reviewing more than 4,000 pages of documents related to the investigation, Sports Illustrated reports. A spokesperson has reportedly confirmed that Andersen is unlikely to face any criminal charges.