In a curious case that is still unfolding, a Pittsburgh man was arrested yesterday (October 18) and now in court this morning on charges he attempted to extort money from former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward.
Joshua Van Auker, 26, got himself on the radar of the Allegheny County district attorney’s office after sending a text message to Ward’s personal assistant, Raymond Burgess, Jr., with an ominous threat which had aims of ruining the four-time Pro Bowler’s image and reputation, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A criminal complaint written by investigators read that Van Auker was, “alleging that Ward committed the criminal offense of paying women for s-x, and thereby exposing Ward to ridicule or contempt.”
Burgess reached out to authorities on Wednesday (October 17) and said he believed Van Auker was trying to extort money from Ward based on the assumption that the retired All-Star player was intimately involved in the past with his girlfriend. Investigators say Van Auker made a demand of $15,000, stating in the message that Ward would be ‘buying silence” in return.
Van Auker was arrested in a sting operation that involved Burgess, who then made the exchange with the man for the reported information inside an envelope that allegedly contained the information he threatened to expose. Ward, 36, has not made any public reference to the case and has kept a low profile naturally.
Joshua Van Auker was awaiting arraignment this morning in an unnamed Allegheny County court on two felony counts of attempted extortion.