In 2011, former Denver Nuggets centre Chris Andersen (a.k.a. “Birdman”) became entangled in a web of lies that led to an investigation into the possession and distribution of child pornography, all because he started chatting with someone he believed to be L.A.-based Instagram star Paris Dunn. He would later learn, along with Dunn, that their communications were being puppeteered by a woman in Manitoba named Shelly Chartier.
The complicated catfishing scheme unraveled in the headlines over the next three years, but little was known about the Manitoba woman who started it all. Now, a gripping new CBC documentary, Indictment: The Crimes of Shelly Chartier, delves into the untold side of the story thanks to in-depth interviews from Chartier.
It all began six years ago, when Chartier set up fake Facebook accounts in order to form a relationship between Andersen and Dunn, who was 17 at the time. Dunn believed that it was Andersen sending her a Facebook request and later a message that said, “Hey.”
After luring Dunn in, Chartier then obtained Andersen’s phone number and began messaging him as Dunn. Unbeknownst to them, Chartier was acting as the middle man, passing along their respective nude photos and eventually setting up a meeting between the two. (Dunn flew from Los Angeles to Denver to meet the basketball player.) Dunn says in retrospect, there were signs that something was off, but neither of them questioned it at the time. It wasn’t until after Chartier began posing as Dunn’s mother to blackmail Anderson for $3,000 (because Dunn was underage) that the scheme began to unravel and the authorities became involved.
During their investigation into Andersen, police came across an IP address that belonged to neither party. Instead, it led them to the last place they expected: a remote First Nations reserve in Easterville, Manitoba. There, authorities discovered that the then 28-year-old Chartier had devised the whole plot from her computer—and Andersen and Dunn may not have been the only victims.
As the CBC documentary reveals, Chartier had never quite fit in—her mother, Delia, says her daughter was constantly bullied as a child. In an interview in the doc, Delia says she remembers her daughter, “repeatedly coming home barefoot because kids took her shoes away.” At 12, Chartier was removed from school; she later developed social anxiety and light sensitivity, which prevented her from leaving her house.
But the internet quickly became her window to the outside world. She embarked on multiple catfishing schemes that officials say may have involved more pro athletes. Delia blames herself, believing that if she had kept Chartier in school, she might not have felt the need to live her life through others. In the documentary, Chartier puts her motivation for her crimes simply: “I was stupid, I was bored and I was lonely. That’s the truth.”
Chartier was arrested and found guilty of seven counts of fraud, as well as impersonation, extortion and uttering threats. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison in October 2015. Since her release in 2016, she has tried to move on with her life, but remains ostracized in her town. The 33-year-old now lives with her husband, Rob Marku, who she met online playing Xbox Live, but many on her reserve have expressed embarrassment over the negative press her actions have brought to the Easterville community.
The documentary, which premieres this weekend, shares Chartier’s account of the events that changed her life, as well as the lives of Dunn and Andersen—but it also details how sometimes, “victims and offenders are on the same side of the coin.”
Indictment: The Crimes of Shelly Chartier Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 9 PM on CBC
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