Inside the life of Manitoba’s master manipulator who conned the rich and famous
Court docs shed light on the isolated existence of the woman behind the catfishing scam
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/08/2015 (2775 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
She has been described as a master manipulator who enjoyed toying with the lives of strangers while hiding behind the anonymity of a computer screen.
But there is more to Shelly Chartier, the 33-year-old woman from Easterville who is currently awaiting sentencing for the bizarre con jobs.
Justice officials have spent several months trying to get inside the mind of Chartier to assist the judge in crafting a punishment for what has been described an unprecedented series of offences. A professional athlete, a Hollywood actress and a lovesick Texas woman are the three main victims of Chartier’s cybercrimes. Their names are currently protected by a publication ban.
The Crown wants up to 18 months in jail while Chartier is seeking to remain free in the community on a conditional sentence. A decision is expected in October.
What motivated Chartier? How could this poorly-educated woman pull off such a complex, international extortion and identity scam? Is she a danger to strike again? These questions are addressed in a pre-sentence report which was filed during last week’s sentencing hearing. The Free Press has obtained a copy.
‘She appears and acts like someone half her age’
She hasn’t attended school since Grade 6, the result of what she claims was constant teasing and bullying from other kids including being stabbed in the back with a pencil and repeatedly called “stupid.”
She hasn’t worked at paid employment in her life, getting by on $150 per week in social assistance while living in what’s described by a probation officer as “Third World” conditions including a house filled with mould in an isolated, northern Manitoba community rife with poverty, violence and addiction.
She neglects any medical care but says her teeth hurt “all the time” — admitting her typical diet consists of “sugar and junk” but never a drop of alcohol or drugs.
She considers her only real friend to be her ailing single mother, who has been bed-ridden for years due to major health issues.
She rarely ventures outside, admitting to a constant feeling of distrust and dread about what lies beyond the front door. And so she spends nearly every waking hour immersed in video games and high-speed Internet which only arrived in their community in 2011 and opened a new world for her.
“Shelly presents as a young woman who is very stifled in her development. She appears and acts like someone half her age,” probation officer Patricia Whitney wrote in her report. This came following interviews with Chartier, her mother and community members.
“Possibly due to over protectiveness by her caregivers as a young child or the dysfunction evident in her community, Shelly resorted to isolating herself,” said Whitney. “Over many years she adapted to her isolation and seems to have developed a social network and almost fantasy type existence based solely on what and who was available to her on the Internet.”
To put it more bluntly: In real life, Chartier is almost powerless. But through her bogus online personas, she wielded all the power.
The NBA star should thank me: Chartier
“I never say I’m sorry. I just want to get past it.”
Chartier doesn’t feel she has anything to apologize for, even though she caused a National Basketball Association star to be seen as a child sex offender in the eyes of many.
This was done by impersonating him online and soliciting nude photos from what turned out to be a 17-year-old female fan from California. Chartier forwarded those underage images to the basketball player while pretending to be the girl, and even arranged a face-to-face meeting on the guise the girl was really 21. She then broke off their relationship and began blackmailing both for money and gifts.
The revelations that the athlete was being investigated in a possible child sex crime cost him millions of dollars in endorsements and contract money, including not being re-signed by his team and having to take the league minimum with another squad. But in her pre-sentence report, Chartier claims he should actually be thanking her because he went on to win a championship with new team.
“It was a good thing, doesn’t it seem like it?” Chartier told her probation officer.
Chartier shows a similar lack of insight and remorse towards her other victims, including a Hollywood actress who knew the basketball player she targeted through similar social circles. Chartier reached out to the woman, posing as the basketball player, and asked her if she might be able to do him a favour by donating to a friend who lost everything in a house fire. The actress sent several thousand dollars worth of clothing.
More: ‘I don’t think you’ll find a case that even comes close to this:’ Defence lawyer
Chartier also targeted a Texas woman, using the persona of a video game player she had impersonated. Between 2008 and 2012, they maintained an online relationship despite never meeting. The woman was of limited means but essentially devoted her life to pleasing the video game player she thought she was talking to. It was described as an often “emotionally abusive” relationship.
“Shelly states that she feels bad about taking money and blames boredom and having no friends for her charges,” the probation officer wrote. “Shelly described her life as being sad and lonely before her arrest. She gets anxiety and panic attacks. She has never seen a doctor or received any counselling for this.”
She claims her future is bright.
Chartier told probation officials she met a 22-year-old New York man, Rob Marku, while playing Xbox video games around the time of her arrest. Marku came to Easterville for the first time last Nov. 22. They were married inside her home, by a local minister, on Christmas Day.
It wouldn’t exactly be happily after. While Chartier is staring at a possible jail sentence, Marku was deported in June after Canadian officials found he was illegally in the country. He has prior criminal convictions for drug charges.
“He is her first boyfriend, first husband, everything,” the pre-sentence report reads. Chartier claims this relationship opened her eyes that she “did not have to be inside all the time.” She plans to eventually go visit her husband in New York and possibly pursue becoming a minister, saying she loves studying the Bible.
“Shelly states that her life started after her arrest and described it as a ‘wake up call’,” the report states. (Marku) states that they immediately “clicked” when they first met and he loves her very much. He does not believe that Shelly is capable of what she is being charged with and feels she should be given a chance by the courts.”
Chartier is also claiming she is now pregnant by Marku. However, she has refused several requests by justice officials to see a doctor, so there is no actual confirmation. Is it just another con? Her probation officer is giving her the benefit of the doubt.
“To Shelly’s benefit, the Internet provided her with a new outlook on life and the possibility of a real future with her husband and expectant child. This has created some social control and incentive for her to give up her dependence on the internet,” wrote Whitney.
Officials have deemed Chartier a medium-risk to re-offend. But her mother is certain she will stay out of trouble, saying for the first time in her life her daughter “has something to live for.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.