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'American Ninja Warrior' champ charged with luring South Jersey teen for sex, porn

'American Ninja Warrior' champ charged with luring South Jersey teen for sex, porn

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The winner of last year’s championship on the television competition “American Ninja Warrior” has been charged with luring an underage South Jersey girl for sex and manufacturing child pornography, according to a federal complaint unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Camden.

Drew Drechsel, 31, nicknamed the “Real Life Ninja,” could not be reached for comment. He was arrested Tuesday at his home in St. Cloud, Florida, near Orlando.

During a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory Kelly, he was ordered to remain in custody after the judge found him to be a danger to the community and a flight risk.

Drechsel’s lawyer, Frank Riccio, said by email that Drechsel would plead not guilty.

According to the complaint, the victim, then 19, contacted Cherry Hill police in June 2019 and told them that when she was 15, she began a sexual relationship with Drechsel, then 26.

She said she first met Drechsel in 2014 after an “American Ninja Warrior” contestant event, where they exchanged numbers and began texting each other.

In April 2015, Drechsel, who by then had been a finalist on the NBC show, opened the New Era Ninja Gym in Hamden, Connecticut. That July, the victim, who lived in New Jersey, and Drechsel texted about her visiting the gym as a 15th birthday present, the complaint says.

During her visit, the two had sex after Drechsel’s girlfriend left the gym, the complaint says. The girl told detectives she told her mother about it the next day.

The mother told police she confronted Drechsel and he did not deny having sex with her daughter, but said he had not known the girl’s age, the complaint says. She also told police her daughter had threatened to harm herself if the mother told police about her relationship with Drechsel.

In January 2016, Drechsel met her in Marlton, Burlington County, where they had sex in his car in a restaurant parking lot, the complaint says. The victim also told police that when she was 15 to 17 years old, she met Drechsel multiple times outside a gym in Hainesport, Burlington County, and they had sex outside the building.

On multiple occasions, she told police, Drechsel asked her to communicate with him on Skype while naked, the complaint says.

A forensic analysis of Drechsel’s cellphone revealed several images and a video of the victim when she was 14 to 16 years old, the complaint says.

In one text exchange, in June 2016, Drechsel asked the girl to contact him on Skype, and she said she was reluctant, according to the complaint. Drechsel, the complaint says, texted back: “It’s always fun for me, you’re always fantastic.”

Drechsel, who made the winning rope climb for Team USA in the 2019 “USA vs. the World” “American Ninja Warrior” competition and who participated on Team USA in the 2020 competition, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted of manufacturing child pornography.

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