When the Douglas County Sheriff’s officers returned to headquarters after searching Andersen’s property, Shawn Cronce, head of ICAC, quickly began dissecting his hard drive. She was a 15-year veteran of the department admired for her ability to solve cases colleagues deemed too complex or too disturbing. This case, however, seemed straightforward: There were pictures on his computer of a nude 17-year-old—naked photographs of anyone under 18 is considered child pornography in Colorado—and threatening messages from an account with Andersen’s name on it. But Cronce is known for following through on every thread of evidence. Her first step was to trace every message between Andersen and Roxanne through their IP addresses, then match all of those with every known location where Andersen and Roxanne would have logged in during their online relationship. Andersen had been playing NBA games for six months, so he might send a message from Cleveland one day and Toronto the next. It was a painstaking process. Soon, however, Cronce spotted an unusual pattern. Over and over again, these messages traced to an unknown IP address located north of the border—far outside her jurisdiction.
But then Andersen began receiving menacing messages from someone who claimed to be Roxanne’s mother. “I know what you did,” she told Andersen, “and here’s what I want.” The legal age of consent in Colorado is 17, so Andersen knew he hadn’t broken any laws, but he and Bryant decided that a small payoff was better than a public relations fiasco, so they agreed to send a nominal fee—less than $5,000—to an undisclosed location.
The next day, Andersen’s lawyers released a statement explaining that he had been the victim of an extortion plot earlier in the year, and said, “The investigation is expected to take three weeks. We’re confident it will show that Chris did not engage in any criminal conduct.” (Andersen never talked to the press about this case, and declined an interview request from Newsweek.) That bit of blackmail was related to a brief relationship between Andersen and Paris Roxanne, a 17-year-old aspiring model from just outside Los Angeles. They had met online in October 2011, where she had presented herself as a 21-year-old. She sent Andersen a fan message on Facebook, and soon they communicated regularly through Facebook and then by texts. Eventually a meeting was arranged. They spent a few days together in Denver, had consensual sex, and then Roxanne went home. Andersen lost interest, according to Bryant, and the messages between them stopped a short time later.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, there was no hacking involved. Instead Chartier, spent every day between February 2011 and August 2013 deceiving her many victims, triangulating conversations in one part of the country that overlapped with other triangulated conversations until the triangles became compound polygons. “It was an operation,” Douglas County District Attorney Chris Gallo says with a hint of admiration. “The way it was being done and the commitment to how it was being done is kind of staggering.”
They realized Chartier had set up a bogus Facebook profile as Andersen, then received a message from Roxanne. Chartier responded as if she were Andersen, then set up a fake Roxanne profile to communicate with Andersen. This is where things got complicated and sinister. Both Andersen and Roxanne believed they were sending each other Facebook messages and starting an intimate relationship, but their messages were being triangulated through Chartier’s fake profile pages. Think of Chartier as a devious and malicious post office. Every message between Andersen and Roxanne was filtered through her computer, which meant she could manipulate any of their messages. And she did. Often.