Dan Wetzel:

Heat's Andersen cleared in Internet scam

The SportsXchange

It was the Manti Te'o scandal on steroids.

That is how Mark Bryant, the attorney for Miami Heat center Chris Andersen, described an Internet-child pornography scheme by a Canadian woman who wanted a relationship with Andersen and is accused of trying to extort money from him.

On Wednesday, multiple outlets reported that Andersen, who had been under investigation for more than a year, had been a victim of a "extremely complex" hoax.

"We were always confident that Chris was innocent but we just couldn't figure out what had happened," Bryant told ESPN.com. "It turned out that it was a Manti Te'o situation."

Te'o, currently with the San Diego Chargers and a former Notre Dame star, last year was involved in an embarrassing and well-publicized hoax involving a girlfriend who did not exist.

Andersen's situation, his lawyer said, was much more complex than Te'o's and involved the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well as various U.S. law enforcement agencies.

In 2012, Andersen's Denver-area home was searched as part of the Internet Crimes Against Children unit investigation.

Sports Illustrated reported that Andersen had been having a consensual sexual relationship with a Californian woman who "allegedly misrepresented her age to Andersen," but was still not underage in Colorado, "where the statutory age of consent is 17."

During that same time, a suspect from Manitoba, Canada, stole Andersen's identity, giving her online access to all of his information.

Bryant explained that the Canadian woman impersonated Andersen in electronic communications with the Californian woman. The Canadian woman also impersonated the Californian woman in communications with Andersen.

Police say the woman made threats pretending to be Andersen and tried to extort money from Andersen pretending to be the California woman.

The woman, ESPN reported, was arrested in January.

Andersen was never arrested or charged, and now after a 15-month investigation, he has been cleared of any wrong-doing.

Andersen and Bryant met with a local district attorney, a Douglas (Colo.) County investigator and a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police last month near his Denver home. When the scheme was explained, Bryant and Andersen were stunned.

"Some things started making sense to him," Bryant said. "By the end of the interview he was very grateful. The work and the people who worked on this -- he was just very grateful. But when he walked out he was solemn because there were other victims here."

Police estimate that dozens of others were caught up in the woman's scheme.

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