PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man who claims his girlfriend once had a "physical relationship" with retired Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was in custody Friday on charges he tried to extort $15,000 from the player by threatening to release evidence the player had paid for sex.
Joshua Van Auker, 26, of Pittsburgh, awaited arraignment on two felony counts of attempted extortion.
Van Auker was arrested Thursday by detectives from the Allegheny County district attorney's office after he allegedly met with Ward's personal assistant, Raymond Burgess, who paid him the money in exchange for unspecified "materials" in an envelope that Van Auker said could prove his claims, according to a criminal complaint. Detectives monitoring that exchange then arrested Van Auker but have not said what was in the envelope.
Online court records don't list an attorney for Van Auker.
A spokesman for Ward, Andrew Ree, called the alleged extortion attempt "the act of a desperate individual trying to get money from a celebrity."
Ward, who was traveling Friday and unavailable for comment, did not even know about any extortion attempt until Thursday and "played no part in anything," Ree said.
According to the complaint, Burgess contacted the prosecutor's office on Wednesday to say he had gotten a text message from Van Auker containing the extortion message.
If payment was not made, the message said, Van Auker planned to sell or release materials alleging Ward paid women for sex, thereby exposing him to "ridicule or contempt," according to the complaint.
Burgess told investigators Van Auker decided to make the demands after learning his girlfriend "had been involved in a prior physical relationship with Ward," the complaint said.
The woman is not identified in the complaint. One of two charges against Van Auker says he "threatened to publicly accuse the victim of soliciting prostitutes."
After contacting investigators, Burgess again spoke with Van Auker, who allegedly repeated the extortion demand by saying, "It's called buying silence, brother," the complaint said.
Ward, 36, retired in March after 14 seasons with the Steelers. He had 1,000 catches for 12,021 yards, both franchise records, and was MVP of the Super Bowl XL, which the Steelers won in 2006.
Ward has parlayed that success into a second career as a pregame commentator and reporter with NBC Sports, and had also appeared on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars," while still a player.
Ward, whose father is black and mother is Korean, has also worked to raise awareness about discrimination that mixed-race children face in the United States and his mother's native country.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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