Former NBA star Chris "Birdman" Andersen earned his nickname through a spiked mohawk, dunks, tattoos, and a lengthy wingspan. In his second stint with the Denver Nuggets, Andersen became known due to his association with another animal. One that lives on the Internet rather than the sky: a catfish.
How Chris Andersen Was 'Catfished'
There are three main players in Andersen's wild catfish story: One is Southern-California based aspiring model Paris Dunn -- who went by the stage name Paris Dylan. She is said to have enjoyed chatting with pro basketball players through social media.
The second is of course Andersen, who was having a nice resurgence in the latter part of his career after being suspended for violating the league's anti-drug policy in 2006. He was reinstated by the league in 2008.
The third is Shelly Chartier -- a young Canadian woman from the remote town of Easterville, Manitoba -- who catfished Dunn and Andersen. Cartier set up fake accounts for Andersen and Dunn then sneaked into Dunn's direct messages with a fake Andersen account. She did the same to Andersen from a fake Dunn account.
The communication eventually moved to texting, and the real Dunn and Andersen shared selfies with the faux numbers as the online relationship grew.
In reality, they were both communicating with Chartier, who manipulated responses however she wanted.
As Dunn's relationship with the fake Andersen developed, Chartier created a fake number under the name Tom Taylor, claiming to be Andersen's best friend. Fake Taylor and Dunn talked casually. Taylor eventually suggested Dunn visit Andersen in Colorado.
Simultaneously, Chartier orchestrated the trip with Andersen as Dunn. The real Dunn -- who was a 17-year-old at the time -- followed through on the suggestion and was relieved to see Andersen pick her up at the airport.
However, strange details about their lives were muddled. For example, Dunn mentioned talking to Tom and Andersen had no idea who he was. The two brushed it off, had a nice weekend and went their separate ways while remaining in contact.
Who Was Shelly Chartier?
The untold story of Shelly Chartier: the rural Manitoba woman who catfished the stars https://t.co/HuxuDVk3M3 pic.twitter.com/jigHQwxifh
— CBC Manitoba (@CBCManitoba) October 26, 2017
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Soon after, "Taylor" started bombarding Dunn with text messages. The messages turned tense when Dunn said she was going to a Los Angeles Clippers event to meet Blake Griffin. "Taylor" didn't take kindly to that and threatened to expose Dunn. The teenager went on to tell her mother about the threats and contacted authorities.
Meanwhile, in February 2012, Andersen received a mysterious email from a woman claiming to be Dunn's mother. She threatened to extort Andersen for spending that weekend with her 17-year old daughter. Andersen passed all communication to his lawyer, Mark Bryant.
Bryant responded, saying Paris had lied about her age. Bryant was able to prove his case when he contacted Andersen's travel agent and discovered Paris had booked the flight posing as a 21-year old.
Lo and behold, it was Chartier who booked the travel arrangements.
Even though the age of consent in Colorado is 15, the problem was the nude photos Dunn had sent the NBA player. Bryant eventually sent "Dunn's mother" $3,000 to keep the story under wraps. A few months later, in the middle of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, the center was pulled over by the Douglas County Colorado Sheriff's department.
The authorities had obtained a search warrant and Andersen's home had been inspected. His computers were seized by department's Internet Crimes Against Children Unit because Dunn was underage, and the photos could be classified as child pornography.
Due to the backlash, Denver released Anderson at the end of the season; his reputation tarnished.
As authorities investigated Andersen and Dunn's electronic records, they noticed fake profiles, emails, and phone numbers. They traced the IP address to a little town in Canada, where Chartier was catfishing at large.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- Canada's equivalent to the FBI -- caught Chartier and sentenced her to 18-months in prison for impersonation, issuing threats and extortion. She had been catfishing a total of 11 victims online for over three years. Andersen and Dunn walked away from the situation with no legal ramifications.
Andersen's image and career took a temporary hit. The Texas native eventually signed with the Miami Heat and won an NBA Championship in 2013. Dunn -- now 27 and known as Paris Roxanne -- went from the Birdman to the American Pieman and is dating 76-year old American folk singer Don McLean. I'm sure the transition was seamless. Chariter served her time and attends to her bedridden mother in Easterville. She met a guy from New York over Xbox in 2014 and they married shortly after.
The story of the catfishing scheme became the subject of Nev Schulman's MTV program Catfish: The TV Show as well as ABC News' 20/20.
This catfishing scandal is a cautionary tale. Social media alleviates our guard more than an in-person interaction would. Dunn and Andersen fell victim to someone who messed with their lives just because she could. There was no ulterior motive, it was out of boredom.
The online waters are murky, and catfish swim abundantly.
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