Reclusive ‘catfishing’ con artist sentenced to 18 months in jail
Woman scammed an NBA star, Hollywood actress from Manitoba home
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/10/2015 (2668 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
EASTERVILLE — She quietly snuck into court under the veil of anonymity — a stunning contrast to the worldwide attention her notorious crimes have attracted.
But there was no more hiding for Shelly Chartier. She had been exposed, her complex web of lies resulting in an 18-month jail sentence.
Master manipulator. Online predator. And now, provincial inmate.
“These offences were perpetrated over the Internet and impacted the lives of people all over North America. By posing as various real people that she met online, Shelly Chartier hid from the realities of her life… but also hid behind her keyboard while she befriended and defrauded her victims,” provincial court Judge Ryan Rolston told a packed community hall that serves as twice-monthly circuit court.
Chartier, 31, pleaded guilty to several charges including fraud, impersonation and uttering threats. She had been seeking a conditional sentence that would have allowed her to remain under house arrest in Easterville, a community of fewer than 100 people located 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
But Rolston said such a penalty wouldn’t reflect the gravity of Chartier’s crimes, which impacted several victims, including a professional basketball player, a Hollywood actress and a lovesick Texas woman. Rolston said allowing Chartier to simply go home — where all her crimes were planned and executed with precision — would be an injustice.
More from Easterville: ‘I wish I could go to jail with her’: Bedridden mother of Easterville con artist speaks to the Free Press
“The investigation of these offences spanned over three years and involved two countries, approximately 42 police officers and the execution of 39 search warrants,” said Rolston. “Each victim was impacted in a significant but individually unique and profound way.”
Chartier appeared distraught at the decision. The tiny woman sat in a chair with her head bowed, only about a metre away from where Rolston read his written reasons for nearly an hour. Her disabled, bedridden mother sat nearby on a stretcher, which had been wheeled into court by local paramedics.
Rolston said it was a difficult case because there is no precedent in Canada to compare it to. But he warned that this type of crime is likely to become more common.
“In many respects the Internet has become the last lawless frontier of our society. It is a place where it is easy to remain anonymous. Cyber-predators can offend from behind their keyboards without regard to the victims they leave in their wake, no matter what real-life borders separate them from their victims,” the judge said. “The online predator hides in a cyber-forest of IP addresses, usernames and passcodes; buttressed by the fact that real-world boundaries cause jurisdictional issues for the authorities.”
Chartier has been described as a master manipulator who enjoyed toying with the lives of distant strangers while hiding behind a computer screen.
All of this was somehow pulled off by a woman who was armed only with a Grade 6 education, a celebrity obsession and a high-speed Internet connection in Easterville, a community rife with violence, poverty and addiction.
Chartier’s prime target was a colourful star in the National Basketball Association who had his identity stolen, only to be branded a suspected child sex offender. Although it was eventually revealed to be untrue, it caused plenty of grief including the loss of millions in contract money and endorsements.
The scheme to target him began in 2010 as Chartier resorted to what has come to be known as “catfishing.” She set up a Facebook profile in which she pretended to be the athlete while seeking out potential love interests with young women online. She also set up another fake account using the name of a popular online video-game enthusiast.
Once these connections had been made, Chartier would then contact the real basketball player through his social-media accounts, now taking on the identity of the young women she had befriended while posing as the basketball player. The idea was to create situations in which she could ultimately force the athlete into career-threatening situations and he’d be forced to pay “hush money.”
One of those young women was a then 17-year-old California girl who was apparently infatuated with athletes, including the basketball player, and held herself out to actually be 21. Chartier, pretending to be the player, ended up getting the girl to send the basketball player nude photos of herself. She also facilitated a meeting between the two of them, where the player paid for her flights and they had consensual sex. Of course, he believed she was 21.
Once that was over, Chartier began blackmailing the basketball player — by pretending to be the teen and later the teen’s angry mother. Chartier made numerous demands, including the purchase of clothing, lingerie and other household items.
The basketball player ultimately sent a cheque for $3,000, believing it would divert from any legal issues. Chartier pocketed the money. Chartier also began threatening the teen while using the bogus identify of the video-game player she had also taken on, even posting some of her nude pictures online and sending her a link.
All of this eventually led to the girl and her mother going to police and a child exploitation investigation in which the basketball player and video-game player were viewed as suspects.
Another high-profile target was a Hollywood actress, who knew the basketball player Chartier 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. She said a friend had lost everything in a house fire in a remote Canadian community. The actress said she would help and eventually sent several thousand dollars worth of clothing and an expensive bottle of wine.
Chartier’s longest-lasting victim was a Texas woman she befriended online, using the persona of the video-game player she had impersonated. Between 2008 and 2012, they maintained an online relationship despite never coming face-to-face. The Texas 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, where Chartier would berate and degrade the Texas woman in messages when she got angry.
The woman also sent gifts and money and was in the process of buying a car for her boyfriend when the ruse was exposed in 2013.
Chartier was also placed on two years of supervised probation Wednesday, which includes performing 200 hours of community service work. She will only be allowed online for educational or employment purposes.
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.
Updated on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 12:14 PM CDT: Updated with sentence.
Updated on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 12:15 PM CDT: Updates subheadline.
Updated on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 12:47 PM CDT: Adds video.
Updated on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 1:37 PM CDT: Adds comment from lawyer.
Updated on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 3:10 PM CDT: Adds comment from judge's ruling.
Updated on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 3:16 PM CDT: Corrects Chartier's age.
Updated on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 7:51 PM CDT: Write-through