Husband of reclusive celebrity-obsessed con artist standing by his wife
U.S. man met scammer online and still loves her
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/10/2015 (2671 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
He’s heard the skepticism and the ridicule, but Rob Marku doesn’t care.
The American wants the world to know he is deeply in love with his wife, Shelly Chartier — the Manitoba woman at the centre of the “catfishing” con case that has made headlines around the world.
“I love her to death. She means everything to me,” Marku, 22, said in an exclusive interview Thursday with the Free Press from his home in New York.
Marku met Chartier, 31, about three years ago while playing online video games. Their first face-to-face encounter wasn’t until last winter, when Marku made his way to Chartier’s remote home community of Easterville, about 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Within weeks, they were married by a justice of the peace. It took place while Chartier was accused of pulling off one of the most complex cyber con jobs seen in Canada in which she targeted several people across North America, including a professional basketball player and Hollywood actress. She was charged with identity theft and fraud.
Her actions triggered a cross-country investigation spanning nearly three years, involving dozens of police officers and 39 search warrants.
Marku insists he isn’t a victim.
“We spoke about everything. She showed me she was real about it, and once we got together, it was an amazing experience,” he said.
It was also a short experience. Canadian officials deported Marku in June, saying he had overstayed his visit and didn’t have proper credentials. The fact he had a drug-related conviction on his record didn’t help.
“It was like grasping paradise and then having it taken away,” Marku said Thursday.
He has continued to speak with Chartier on the phone every day and night, right up until her sentencing Wednesday in Easterville. She was handed an 18-month jail term after a judge rejected her bid for house arrest.
Chartier — a computer-savvy, celebrity-obsessed hermit with little real-life experience — was led away in handcuffs and taken to a provincial jail in The Pas.
“A few days in there is too much. I can’t picture her in there. It blows my mind. None of this is right,” Marku said.
“It’s too harsh of a sentence. It’s not a violent crime. She didn’t hurt anybody. This has been torturing her for years.”
Marku is making a formal application to return to Canada. He hopes his marriage to Chartier, along with her circumstances, will expedite the process.
In a pre-sentence report, officials expressed hope Chartier’s relationship with Marku could mark a new beginning for a woman who has been socially isolated most of her life, dropped out of school in Grade 6 and has never been employed while living in a community of fewer than 100 people. Poverty, addiction and violence are rampant in Easterville.
“He is her first boyfriend, first husband, everything,” the pre-sentence report reads. “To Shelly’s benefit, the Internet provided her with a new outlook on life and the possibility of a real future with her husband… This has created some social control and incentive for her to give up her dependence on the Internet.”
Marku, who develops video games, said he is counting down the days until they can reunite. They plan to build a future together in Manitoba, including caring for Chartier’s bedridden mother.
Delia Chartier told the Free Press Wednesday she fears for her health now that her daughter is in jail. She praised Marku, insisting the relationship is real.
“I know love when I see it,” she said.
Shelly Chartier will be eligible for day parole after serving one-sixth of her sentence, in mid-January. Upon release, she will be subject to two years of supervised probation, including a ban on Internet access. She must perform 200 hours of community service.
Marku said Thursday he will support his wife every step of the way.
She has so far called him once from jail. He said she was upset.
“For her to be going through all this breaks my heart. It kills me not to be there for her,” he said.
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.