A man has been charged with two felony counts of extortion for allegedly… (Gene J. Puskar / Associated…)
A 26-year-old Pittsburgh man allegedly sought $15,000 from the personal assistant of retired Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward after threatening to release evidence that the former Super Bowl MVP had paid for sex with a woman.
"It's called buying silence, brother," suspect Joshua Van Auker allegedly told Raymond Burgess, Ward's assistant.
It's also called extortion, and Van Auker now faces a preliminary hearing on two felony counts of it following his arrest last week after allegedly selling Burgess so-called evidence that Ward had paid for a "physical relationship" with Van Auker's girlfriend.
A criminal complaint says Burgess alerted the Allegheny County district attorney's office Wednesday after receiving a text from Van Auker with the demand. The two then spoke again, which is when Burgess was allegedly told he'd be buying silence.
They met last Thursday and Burgess paid for an envelope that contained unspecified "materials" that supposedly could prove the claims against Ward, the complaint says. Detectives from the district attorney's office then arrested Van Auker.
According to Ward's representatives, the former "Dancing With the Stars" champion and current analyst for "Sunday Night Football" did not know about the alleged extortion attempt until after the fact. They called the alleged crimes “the act of a desperate individual trying to get money from a celebrity.”
[Updated at 11:12 a.m.: The preliminary hearing has been postponed until Dec. 3. Van Auker's attorney said he needed more time to investigate the charges and the evidence.]
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.