The hard-luck peoples of Easterville, Manitoba, scratch out livings anyway they can. Some hunt in the Canadian wilderness like their forebears. Shelly Lynn Chartier allegedly did her fishing and trapping on the Internet.
That’s where she snagged the Heat’s Birdman.
Chartier is the 29-year-old trickster and Internet hacker who stands accused of nearly ruining the name of basketball player Chris Andersen, Miami’s colorfully tattooed forward who became an unlikely star of the team’s championship run in June.
Next month, Chartier is scheduled to appear before a court in her small Manitoba town for charges of possessing and transmitting child pornography, personation, extortion and uttering threats. For about a year, she allegedly posed as Andersen and others on the Internet.
It’s an enormous relief for Andersen to have his personal nightmare behind him, says Mark Bryant, Andersen’s attorney and agent. Andersen declined comment for this story, deferring to Bryant.
“Chris is very melancholy about it,” said Bryant. “There’s no celebration in being a victim.”
The Winnipeg Free Press newspaper reported that Chartier’s mother, Delia, took to Facebook last week to defend her daughter. “I’m shaking my head in disbelief at how people around here are so quick to judge, when in fact they don’t know the whole story," the mother wrote. "I love my daughter. I believe she’s a good person.”
The bizarre and complex tale of how Andersen went from cult icon with the Denver Nuggets, to having his Colorado home raided for suspicion of child pornography, to unemployed before the Heat took a chance on him and signed him last January begins with Chartier.
Bryant says authorities fully disclosed to him and Andersen that Chartier hacked his client’s computer, assumed Andersen’s identity through his Facebook account and then assumed the identity of a 17-year-old girl who had been sending Andersen fan mail. From there, according to Andersen’s attorney, Chartier allegedly impersonated both Andersen and the 17-year-old and played one against the other in an effort to extort Andersen for money and gifts, including a Victoria’s Secret wish list.
“On the Internet, people do not always communicate with whom they think they’re communicating with,” said Sgt. Line Karpish, a spokesperson for Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which arrested Chartier in January. “I don’t know how it is in Miami, but up here in Canada we have plenty of people always trying to find some way to scam you out of your money or your identity.”
Chartier, who is out on bail until her court appearance, lives with her mother in a remote Canadian fishing village of less than 100 people. Easterville, a speck of nearly nothing on the shores of Cedar Lake, is populated by displaced First Nation aboriginals whose lives and culture and history were uprooted from their native lands in the 1960s to make room for a hydroelectric dam.
“You blink and miss it,” Karpish said. “It’s a small, small aboriginal community here.”
It was there, in a little bedroom, in a little house, in a little hamlet of despair that Chartier allegedly put into motion a Birdman-catfish-butterfly effect that started with a reply on Facebook but ended, after months of chain reactions that would astound even the most ardent subscribers of chaos theory, with Andersen clutching the Larry O’Brien Trophy inside AmericanAirlines Arena.