October 23, 2012

Man due in court for Hines Ward extortion attempt

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — A man who claims his girlfriend had a "physical relationship" with retired Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward faces a preliminary hearing on charges he tried to extort $15,000 by threatening to release evidence that the retired Pittsburgh Steelers great had paid for sex.

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FILE - In a Tuesday, March 20, 2012 file photo, former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward answers a question after announcing his retirement from the NFL at the Steeler's offices in Pittsburgh. Joshua Van Auker, 26, of Pittsburgh, who claims his girlfriend once had a �physical relationship� with retired Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, was in custody Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 on charges he tried to extort $15,000 from the player by threatening to release evidence the player had paid for sex. Van Auker was awaiting arraignment on two felony counts of attempted extortion. Van Auker was arrested Thursday in Pittsburgh 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 five-page criminal complaint. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

AP

Twenty-six-year-old Joshua Van Auker, of Pittsburgh, was arrested last week after he allegedly met with Ward's personal assistant who paid the money before district attorney's detectives arrested Van Auker.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Van Auker, who has not returned a message requesting comment.

Ward's representatives say he didn't know about the alleged extortion attempt until after the fact and have called Van Auker's alleged crimes "the act of a desperate individual trying to get money from a celebrity."

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