(UPDATE: Head to the bottom of the post for an interview with one of the fans who broke the scandal.)
There are some Pittsburgh Penguins fans that aren't going to be happy about the following news, so we'll break it to you gently via a fascinating story from the Tribune-Review this morning:
• If you responded with a donation to a message from "Sid" sent on Monday, which sought to raise $3,000 for Phelps Park in Minneapolis, shouldn't you have asked yourself why Sidney Crosby was asking for money via Western Union? Or why the money was being filtered to Stephanie Biddlecom, who is also a professional wrestler named Cerise Keller? (There's alluring NSFW Cerise Keller MySpace photos and merchandise here)
• Oh, and the park that was being "saved" in exchange for game-used, autographed gear from "Sid"? Yeah, it's doesn't need work and hasn't been "burned down" as was claimed in by Biddlecom, according to a district manager with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board interviewed by the Tribune-Review. He called the claim "an absolute, 100 percent fabrication."
In an age of Twitter parodies, someone nearly pulled off a Sidney Crosby MySpace scam. They would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for two meddling Penguins fans that exposed the fraud.
Kellie Taylor, 40, of Blairsville and Kristi Briggs, 38, of Indianapolis worked together to expose the MySpace mess, according to the Tribune-Review. We attempted to contact both to no avail this morning.
Here's the Crosby MySpace page that's no been suspended:
From the Tribune-Review, the Cerise Keller side of the story:
In an interview with the Tribune-Review, Biddlecom insisted Crosby was helping her raise money to rebuild a playground destroyed by a gang. She said she met Crosby three years ago when his cousin began dating her sister. Biddlecom said she speaks with Crosby daily.
Biddlecom said fans sent $500 yesterday, bringing the total to $2,250. "I don't know how much Sid raised. He hasn't told me," Biddlecom said. "If he has to take it on himself, he will. It's no killer; $750 is nothing to him."
A lawyer for Crosby confirmed her client has nothing to do with the site.
Now if you'll excuse us, Toe Blake just asked over MySpace if we could leave $200 in a paper bag outside of a supermarket in Paterson, N.J. ...
• • •
UPDATE (Noon EST): Kristi Briggs spoke with us this morning about the case, and there's a delicious detail to add to the story: how they flushed out the rat.
Briggs and Taylor both signed up for the page as fans, thinking that it was actually Crosby’s MySpace. Once they started comparing notes, it became apparent that it was a fake. So they decided to spring a trap to expose the fraud by attempting to message "Sidney Crosby" during a President's Day afternoon game for the Penguins.
"Bingo," recalled Briggs. "It was an overtime game. It’s like 5 o'clock, and they’re in OT. Crosby's giving a live interview. Kellie is e-mailing this chick that's got the fake pages and is talking to Fake Sid on MySpace."
Busted. Briggs said that the woman she believes is behind the phony Crosby page also created a fake Evgeni Malkin(notes) page (cached here); and hey, wouldn't you know it, aspiring professional wrestler Cerise Keller, who was receiving the funds raised in Crosby's name, is a MySpace friend of "Geno Malkin" as well.
(And hey, Briggs said that "Geno Malkin" also posted a blog about the now-exposed fundraiser on "his" MySpace page.)
Beyond the obvious fraud involved, Briggs made the case that this MySpace flap harms the relationship between players and fans. So kudos to Briggs and Taylor for yanking the curtain back on this one.