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Manitoba con woman who impersonated sports star marries N.Y. man

Manitoba RCMP arrested Shelly Chartier in 2013 after an international investigation traced the elaborate con of an NBA player to her computer in Easterville, Man. Jeremy Desrochers / Global News file

THE PAS, Man. — A reclusive woman who is to be sentenced for impersonating people and celebrities online, including a professional athlete, says she doesn’t want to go to jail because she sees a new life with her New York husband and their unborn child.

Shelly Chartier blames boredom and a lack of friends for her “catfishing” crimes, says a pre-sentence report filed in court last week.

“She learned her lesson and just wants to start a family,” the document says.

“Shelly states that her life started after her arrest and described it as a ‘wake-up call.’ ”

Chartier pleaded guilty earlier this year to seven offences, including fraud and extortion, in a bizarre and complex case that entangled the athlete in a child porn investigation and led to a raid of his home in 2012.

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READ MORE: Manitoba woman pleads guilty to online impersonation of pro athlete

Catfishing involves luring someone into a relationship by using a fictional online persona.

A publication ban prevents naming the athlete and other victims. The Crown had applied in court to lift part of the ban but withdrew the request Tuesday.

Defence lawyer John Skinner said his client is anxious about the possibility of going to jail. The Crown has asked she serve 16 to 18 months behind bars; Skinner has recommended a conditional sentence in the community.

The court report says Chartier, 31, acts like someone half her age and has several plans for the future. She would like to be allowed to remain at home in Easterville in northern Manitoba to care for her bed-ridden mother, to visit her recently deported husband in New York and to be ordained as a minister because she likes to read the Bible.

She hasn’t yet seen a doctor but has taken a home pregnancy test and believes she is a few weeks pregnant.

The document says the woman met 22-year-old Robert Marku a couple of years ago while playing Xbox online. They talked on the phone every day.

Last November, almost two years after Chartier’s arrest, Marku travelled from his home in Yonkers to meet her. The document says he asked her to marry him, then moved in with her and her mother in their tiny house on Sesame Street.

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Her cousin Bert later moved in as well, but not his brother Ernie, the document adds.

A minister wed Chartier and Marku in the home on Christmas Day. Marku coaxed his new bride, who rarely went outside, on walks and fishing excursions.

The couple weren’t together for long. The report says Marku was deported in June for staying too long in Canada without permission.

The document describes Chartier as a sad, lonely woman living on social assistance, who dropped out of school in Grade 6 because of bullying and to care for her mother.

She didn’t look after herself, though, eating so much “sugar and junk” that she planned earlier this year to have all her teeth pulled and get dentures.

She watched TV and read vampire books, taught herself about the Internet and was compulsively on the computer.

“She adapted to her isolation and seems to have developed a social network and almost fantasy-type existence based solely on what and who was available to her on the Internet,” says the document.

In 2011, she created a fake Facebook page in the name of the athlete and was contacted by a 17-year-old woman who sent her naked photos.

Her scheme further entangled a professional video game player, a New York comedian and an actress in California.

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