Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mom backs accused in online scam

People 'don't know whole story'

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The Miami Heat's Chris 'Birdman' Andersen was the high-profile target of a complex extortion scheme, authorities say.


The Miami Heat's Chris 'Birdman' Andersen was the high-profile target of a complex extortion scheme, authorities say.

She is accused of masterminding an elaborate online extortion scam targeting more than a dozen victims, including a popular American athlete.

Now the mother of a small-town Manitoba woman at the centre of the bizarre case is lashing out publicly, suggesting there's much more to the case that is making international headlines.

"I'm shaking my head in disbelief at how people around here are so quick to judge, when in fact they don't know the whole story," Delia Chartier wrote Thursday in a post on her Facebook page. "I love my daughter. I believe she's a good person."

Shelly Lynne Chartier, 29, is facing a long list of charges, including possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, extortion, personation and uttering threats. She is free on stringent bail conditions and is living with her mother in Easterville, a community of fewer than 100 residents about 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

The RCMP and U.S. justice officials continue to investigate, suggesting there will likely be more charges once the probe that began in early 2012 is complete.

"I know my daughter is going through some stuff and it's in the hands of the court system. I myself don't know the outcome. But I see all of you with your laugh-out-louds and already believing she's guilty of what she's been charged with," wrote the mother. "All your name-calling is really hurting me as her mother when in fact you know nothing about this case. How can you be so quick to judge when you don't know what the outcome of this is going to be?"

Chartier described her daughter as a kind, loving person who helps take care of her, doesn't drink or do drugs and has been devastated by the criminal charges against her, which could put her behind bars for a long time.

"I'm still proud of my daughter. She's all I have in this world, and I love her no matter what you guys believe," she wrote.

Chartier's Manitoba lawyer, John Skinner, told the Free Press Thursday he is awaiting disclosure of evidence against his client. He declined to comment on the criminal allegations.

There are believed to be more than a dozen victims across at least seven U.S. states, the most famous being Chris "Birdman" Andersen, who recently captured a National Basketball Association championship with the Miami Heat. Andersen, 35, was living in Colorado, playing for the Denver Nuggets, when the scheme to target him allegedly began in 2010.

Investigators say a woman unknown to Andersen set up a Facebook profile in which she pretended to be him while seeking potential love interests with young women online. Once these connections were made, the woman would then contact the real Andersen through his legitimate social-media accounts, now taking on the identity of the young women she had befriended while posing as Andersen.

The idea, investigators say, was to create scenarios where she could force Andersen into career-threatening situations and he'd be forced to pay "hush money." At least one such incident occurred in 2011, involving a then-17-year-old California girl.

According to police, the Manitoba woman made contact with the teen while pretending to be Andersen and persuaded her to send nude photos of herself, which now form the basis of the child-pornography charges.

With those in hand, the woman contacted Andersen, now pretending to be the teen, and arranged for an in-person meeting. Andersen was led to believe the teen was actually 21, according to his lawyer.

The Manitoba woman is accused of continuing to take on both identities in numerous conversations and then relaying and manipulating messages to each along the way. She allegedly hacked into Andersen's email, phone and bank records, according to his lawyer.

The teen did eventually fly to Colorado, meet with Andersen and have a consensual sexual relationship. Upon her return to California, the Manitoba woman allegedly put the next phase of her plan into action.

Police say she "broke off" the relationship with the teen by purporting once again to be Andersen. Now posing as the mother of the California girl, she then contacted Andersen, accusing him of taking advantage of her daughter.

This included references to going public with the nude pictures the teen had sent him, which Andersen, of course, had never received. The only way she would keep quiet was if certain demands were met, including thousands of dollars in cash, clothing and household items.

All this created a major legal and community-relations nightmare for Andersen, who did extensive work with children in Colorado during his seven-year basketball career there.

A police search of his home and computers in spring 2012 became front-page news, and a cloud of doubt continued to linger over him as the investigation of the case continued.

He was released by Denver and signed by Miami during the recent NBA season. He has always denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer said he finally learned the truth of the case during a meeting with police and prosecutors last month.

There is no known connection between Andersen and the Manitoba woman, and it's unclear at this point why he was targeted.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 20, 2013 A3


Updated on Friday, September 20, 2013 at 8:19 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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