The 2019 winner of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” is accused of multiple sex crimes involving an underage girl, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.
Drew Drechsel, known as “The Real Life Ninja” on the show, was arrested Tuesday at his home in Saint Cloud, Florida, which is near Orlando. He is accused of manufacturing child porn, enticing a minor to travel for sex and use of interstate commerce to entice a minor, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
His attorney, Frank Riccio, wrote on Twitter that Drechsel plans on “entering a not guilty plea.”
The alleged incidents began in 2015, when the girl was 15 and Drechsel was 26, according to court documents. She came forward in 2019 with a complaint to the Cherry Hill Police Department in New Jersey.
The girl said she met Drechsel following an event with several “American Ninja Warrior” contestants in 2014, a complaint reads. They exchanged phone numbers and in July 2015 he invited her to his gym in Hamden, Connecticut for her 15th birthday, according to the complaint. The girl lived in New Jersey, officials say.
Drechsel and the girl had “illicit sexual contact” once his girlfriend left the gym, according to court documents. The girl told her mother about the incident and the mom confronted Drechsel, but he said he was unaware of her age, documents allege.
The girl threatened to harm herself if her mother contacted the police, officials say.
Drechsel and the girl continued talking over text messages met again in January 2016, when she was still 15 years old, officials say. He traveled from Connecticut to New Jersey and they allegedly performed sex act inside his car in a parking lot, a complaint reads.
He and the girl also communicated over Skype, where Drechsel directed her to do sexual acts in front of a camera, federal officials say. They continued to meet at a New Jersey gym until the girl was 17 years old.
Law enforcement agents found naked images and videos of the girl on Drechsel’s phone, according to the complaint. She was 14 to 16 years old when the images were taken, officials say.
They continued speaking until 2019, the complaint says.
Each of Drechsel’s charges carry a maximum sentence between 20 to 30 years in prison and each carries a maximum fine of $250,000 if he’s convicted, according to a release.
NBC has removed Drechsel from the show and said it was “shocked and disturbed” to learn of the charge.
“’American Ninja Warrior’ is a family show that has inspired countless people, and we will not let the actions of one contestant tarnish the hard work and amazing stories of so many,” NBC stated. “Moving forward, the ‘American Ninja Warrior’ brand will sever all ties with Mr. Drechsel, including his appearance on future seasons of the show.”