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Hines Ward Extortion Suspect Arrested

By Andrew Lu on October 19, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Pittsburgh man was arrested in an extortion attempt of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward.

Joshua Van Auker allegedly reached out to Ward's personal assistant and threatened that unless Ward paid him $15,000, the man would release information tying Ward to soliciting prostitutes, reports The Associated Press.

The 26-year-old suspect reportedly told Ward that the $15,000 was the price for silence. After retiring from professional football, Ward has remained in the spotlight as a television commentator and also through his appearances on Dancing With the Stars.

Ward's personal assistant reportedly contacted the police when he received a text message from Van Auker with the extortion demands. Van Auker allegedly made the demand of trading the money for the incriminating evidence against Ward.

The personal assistant and Van Auker eventually set up a meeting where the $15,000 exchanged hands. Police who were monitoring the transaction quickly arrested Van Auker as soon as the money changed hands, reports the AP.

Generally, it's illegal to threaten someone with harm or damage to reputation, such as releasing evidence of incriminating evidence, in exchange for money. The alleged extortionist now faces two felony charges.

Police did not release what the incriminating evidence was in the envelope that Van Auker had. However, it's believed that Van Auker may have been upset that his girlfriend allegedly once had a "physical relationship" with the Steelers legend, reports the AP.

Ward is just the latest high-profile former professional athlete to be the alleged victim of an extortion attempt that relates to sex. Previously, Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson was victimized by an ex-stripper that had naked pictures of him, and Terrell Owens claimed extortion by a woman over pictures of him masturbating on Skype.

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