'American Ninja Warrior' champion Andrew 'Drew' Drechsel was arrested on Tuesday on a series of child sex charges, including luring an underage girl for sex and manufacturing child pornography.
Drechsel, 31, who won the last season of NBC's obstacle course competition series, was arrested from his residence in St. Cloud Florida on Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office of the District of New Jersey said in a statement.
Drechsel Had Sex with 15-Year-Old at His 'Ninja' Gym
According to the criminal complaint, Drechsel allegedly began a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl in New Jersey back in 2015 after meeting her at an event for American Ninja Warrior contestants, where they exchanged numbers and started texting each other.
Drechsel later arranged for the girl, who lived in New Jersey at the time, to visit his "Ninja" gym in Connecticut for her 15th birthday. The pair exchanged text messages planning their "sexual activity" in the days leading up to her visit according to the complaint and the two became intimate inside his office after his girlfriend, April Beckner, left the premises.
Drechsel allegedly laid out a mattress and blanket behind a wall in his office where he had sexual intercourse with the teen. The girl told her mother about the sexual encounter later the same day and when the mother confronted Drechsel, she claims he "did not deny the sexual activity," but said he was not aware of her age at the time.
Weeks later, Drechsel reached out to the victim over text and the two discussed engaging in sexual acts again, according to prosecutors. The ANW champion allegedly told the victim that the next time they meet, unlike their previous encounter, they would not have "time to deal with [victim's] shyness and timidity." The teen responded by saying that though she was nervous she'll "be better" for him the next time they meet.
He Had Sex With the Girl Until She Was 17
The following January, Drechsel messaged the girl saying he was traveling to New Jersey and told her he wanted to meet her for sex. He reportedly picked up the underage girl from her home, and drove to a vacant parking lot of a restaurant in Marlton where they had sex.
This aligned with investigators' findings that Drechsel's card was charged at the Marlton restaurant for $37.76 on January 2, 2016, the same day the girl claims the sexual encounter took place. According to the girl, Drechsel picked up food after the encounter ended so he would have an excuse to tell his girlfriend when he returned home.
He Filmed Their Skype Calls Without Her Knowledge
The girl claimed they had sex on multiple occasions between the time she was 15 and 17 years old, the complaint states. The two also video-called each other regularly on Skype, where Drechsel would ask her to remove all of her clothing and then film her using his cellphone without her knowledge.
Investigators found the footage on his old cell phone. One of the images was taken when she was only 14 years old. In a text message from June 2016, he messaged her saying, "Skype now?"
The girl responded by saying that she didn't feel comfortable video chatting with Drechsel before adding that she "felt he was not enjoying himself."
"It's always fun for me, you're always fantastic and I wish I were there to help," he replied.
Drechsel Facing Life Imprisonment
The victim, now 19, came forward to the police in June 2019. According to the mother, she didn't report the incident to the police at the time because her daughter threatened to harm herself if she did.
The charges against Drechsel include manufacture of child pornography, enticement of a minor to travel for illicit sexual conduct, travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, and use of interstate commerce to entice a minor.
Drechsel faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for use of interstate commerce to entice a minor. The additional four charges he faces carry a combined maximum sentence of 95 years in prison, with a maximum fine of $250,000 per count.
Drechsel's lawyer, Frank Riccio, said Tuesday that his client plans to plead not guilty to all the charges.