The ‘American Ninja Warrior’ champion is accused of having sex with an underage girl and encouraging her to send him explicit photos, according to court documents.
Editor’s note: The criminal complaint referenced and linked to this story contains graphic content.
“American Ninja Warrior” winner Drew Drechsel was arrested Tuesday at his home in Florida and charged with seeking sex with a minor and inducing her to send him explicit images, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of New Jersey, Drechsel, who won last year’s season of “American Ninja Warrior,” faces multiple charges including 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.
According to court documents, the victim said she first met Drechsel in 2014 at an event attended by a number of “Ninja Warrior” contestants. The two exchanged numbers and began texting each other, court documents describe.
The criminal complaint alleges that during the summer of 2015, Drechsel, who was 26 years-old at the time, invited the victim, who lived in New Jersey and was 15-years-old at the time, to visit his Connecticut gym and the two had sex.
According to the complaint, the victim told her mother about it the following day. The girl’s mother said when she confronted Drechsel, he allegedly “did not deny the sexual activity, but rather stated he did not know her age at the time.”
The following January, Drechsel told the victim he would be traveling from Connecticut to New Jersey and wanted to meet her for sex, the complaint stated. The girl told investigators she and Drechsel had sex several more times when she was between 15 and 17 years-old.
Investigators said they found photos and images of the victim hidden in an app on Drechsel’s old cell phone.
Attorney Frank J. Riccio II posted a statement on Twitter on behalf of Dreschel, which said he plans to enter a not guilty plea.
“Mr. Drechsel is presumed innocent of the charges and that presumption will remain throughout the pendency of his case. He intends on entering a ‘not guilty’ plea,” the lawyer wrote. “It is respectfully requested that you respect the privacy of Mr. Drechsel and his family.”
In a statement, the co-owner of the Windsor, Connecticut, location of Drechsel’s “Real Live Ninja Academy” gym said they were “surprised and disheartened” by the news.
“Inappropriate relationships have no place in our community and if these allegations against Drew are indeed true, I condemn these actions to the fullest degree,” co-owner Thomas Alberti said. “Moving forward, the business will remain under my own management and Drew will no longer be making any decisions regarding any Real Life Ninja Academy’s.”
Drechsel made his first court appearance Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
In Sept. 2019, Drechsel became only the second $1 million winner in the history of “American Ninja Warrior.”