Chris "Birdman" Andersen cleared after being victimized in twisted double-Catfish scheme
This past May, as ex-Denver Nugget Chris "Birdman" Andersen was taking part in the NBA playoffs with his current team, the Miami Heat, a Douglas County Sheriff's rep told us an Internet Crimes Against Children investigation into his actions was still ongoing after more than a year; see our previous coverage below. Today, however, all that's over. Andersen attorneys long claimed he was a victim, and it now appears to be the case: A Canadian woman is under arrest for a twisted online impersonation scheme that reportedly targeted Birdman.
On May 10, 2012, the Dougco sheriff's office put out a press release confirming that its Internet Crimes Against Children unit had "executed a search warrant at Christopher C. Andersen (33 YO) residence in Larkspur CO." The narrative noted that the ICAC "began investigating Andersen in February 2012 in reference to information that was provided by a law enforcement agency in California," adding, "DCSO has recovered property from the residence that we believe is connected to this case."
An aerial shot of Andersen's home in Larkspur, as seen in a 9News image.
Afterward, as we've reported, attorney Colin Bresee asserted Andersen's innocence of any crime and claimed he was actually the person who'd been wronged. Beginning in 2010, Bresee said Andersen had received numerous letters, some featuring racy photos, from a female fan claiming to be 21 years old. The following year, she flew to Colorado, "showing her required identification," according to a statement he provided to the Denver Post. When she left, she allegedly was upset by Andersen's lack of interest in her, and by 2012, "she threatened to retaliate if he did not provide financial remuneration" -- bounty represented by someone claiming to be her mother as items on her Amazon and Victoria's Secret wish lists plus $5,000 in cash.
Despite these assertions, the investigation ground on, with local authorities declining to either exonerate Andersen or charge him with a crime -- likely because the story that emerged was so strange. The Miami New Times, our sister publication, succinctly describes it as a "bizarre double-Catfish Internet scheme."
Credit for the heavy lifting on the story goes to the Denver Post, to whom current Andersen attorney Mark Bryant spilled the beans. According to the paper, Bryant said "Andersen was being impersonated online by a woman in Canada. The woman, posing as Andersen, sought relationships and gifts but also threatened at least one person," and "was also posing online as other people to Andersen."
The Post identifies the woman thought to be at the heart of the matter as Shelly Lynn Chartier, a 29-year-old resident of tiny Easterville, Manitoba. She was arrested and charged in January with transmitting child pornography, extortion and making threats -- and while Canadian authorities haven't confirmed that some of these offenses involve Andersen, they acknowledge that the Dougco sheriff played a role in the investigation. Chartier is expected to make a court appearance in October.
Another look at Andersen's place in Larkspur, courtesy of KDVR.
Exactly what went on is confusing even in Bryant's telling. Here's an excerpt from the Post's coverage:
Though Andersen and the woman from California met once in person, Bryant said it turns out they never actually communicated directly with each other online, aside from an initial contact. Instead, all the communication unknowingly flowed through the woman in Canada -- posing as Andersen to the California woman and as the California woman to Andersen. Sometimes the woman would simply pass along messages, Bryant said. At other times, she would fabricate messages, he said.
In a quote to ESPN, Bryant likens the result to the case of Manti Te'o, a Notre Dame standout now with the San Diego Chargers who became popular culture's most famous catfishing victim earlier this year. "It turned out that it was a Manti Te'o situation," Bryant maintained. "It was Manti Te'o on steroids."
At this point, Andersen hasn't personally made any comments about the situation, or a statement by the Douglas County District Attorney's Office that no prosecution of Andersen is anticipated, thereby effectively clearing him. But there's no question it had a tremendously negative impact on him, at least in the short run, taking place shortly before his ignominious exit from Denver. True, he landed on his feet, winning a spot on the Heat roster and earning himself an NBA championship ring in the process. But his reputation definitely took a hit -- one from which it should now rebound once and for all.
Continue for our previous coverage of the allegations leveled against former Denver Nugget Chris "Birdman" Andersen, including photos. Original post, 10:50 a.m. May 29: Former Denver Nugget Chris Andersen, aka the Birdman, has been a major part of the Miami Heat's success in the NBA playoffs to date thanks in part to a 15-15 consecutive basket streak that remained alive last night despite the Heat's loss to the Pacers -- because he didn't attempt a shot. Such achievements contrast sharply with his ignominious exit from the Nuggets last July following a search of his home by Douglas County's Internet Crimes Against Children unit. And today, a law-enforcement rep confirms that the investigation into Andersen remains open.
In May 2012, as we've reported, Andersen's home in Larkspur was searched by the ICAC task force, accompanied by representatives of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
The agencies were said to have been acting on a tip from a "California law enforcement agency" first received in February and had been investigating the Birdman since then.
Computer hardware was reportedly seized from the residence.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets granted Andersen a leave of absence to deal with the situation -- and shortly thereafter, his attorney, Colin Bresee, released a statement about the case.
In it, Bresee maintained that circa 2010, Andersen began receiving letters with accompanying racy photos from a female fan who claimed to be 21 but apparently was not.
She flew to Colorado the next year, and when Andersen didn't return her affections, Bresee says she "threatened to retaliate if he did not provide financial remuneration."
In other words, Bresee claimed Andersen wasn't a child-porn fancier but a victim. And at this writing, he still hasn't been charged with a crime.
Nonetheless, Andersen was cut by the Nuggets -- for basketball reasons, supposedly, rather than his legal issues.
The big-man challenged Miami Heat subsequently came calling, and after what's been described as thorough investigation of the DCSO inquiry, team brass signed him up. He's since become a key player off the bench for the LeBron James-led squad.
That doesn't mean he's free and clear when it comes to the Colorado investigation, however.
This photo of Andersen as Santa Claus with a young fan was removed from NBA.com after news of the investigation broke.
Garrett Ellwood for NBA.com
Via e-mail, Ron Hanavan, spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, writes, "The case is still open and we are continuing our investigation." He also provides the following synopsis:
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) unit began investigating Andersen in February 2012, and executed a warrant on 05/10/12. The investigation has been ongoing and continues to be ongoing. We do not comment about specifics in regards to ongoing investigation and where we are in the process. I can say RMRCFL [Rocky Mountain Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory] completed the forensic examination and have forwarded the report to the DCSO for further investigation/review. That is one piece of the investigation and we have been investigating/reviewing those results, which is a very lengthy and time intensive process.
As for Bresee, Andersen's initial lawyer, he offered no comment when we contacted him for an interview earlier today. Back in January, however, Mark Bryant, another attorney for Andersen, stressed to the Denver Post that the inquiry doesn't involve children and reiterated the story about Andersen's victimization. He also shared a statement from the Birdman himself. It reads:
I appreciate everybody that's supported me, and I don't want to say anything bad about anybody, it's everybody's worst nightmare, but I just want to thank everyone that supported me and knew this was a lie from the beginning. They know how I love people, they know how I love kids and they know where my heart has been in this community.
Look below to see a gallery of photos from Andersen's glory days in Denver.
Look at the extras that come with this car.
That "Bird" is green.
A man with a fan.
Every Bird needs a tree.
Just do it.
With a special lady.
Hang in there.
That hairstyle is out-standing.
Get that outta here!
Portrait of a Bird.
Look how tall he is!
Rockin' the 'stache.
He buys ink by the gallon.
More from our Sports archive: "Photos: Chris 'Birdman' Andersen goodbye even though he's still on Nuggets?"
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.
- Dear Stoner: Is It Legal to Sell Clones on Craigslist?
Sat., Sep. 5, 12:00am
Sat., Sep. 5, 12:30pm
Sat., Sep. 5, 7:30pm
Sun., Sep. 6, 2:00pm
- An Open Letter to Colorado Natives From a Transplant
- How to Avoid Being a Parking Douchebag