Drew Drechsel, winner of season 11 of NBC’s competition show “American Ninja Warrior,” was arrested and charged Tuesday with seeking sex with a minor and inducing her into sending him sexually explicit images, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of New Jersey announced.
Authorities say Drechsel, 31, traveled to New Jersey to have sex with a minor. He also allegedly “enticed and coerced” this minor to travel to Connecticut “to engage in illicit sexual conduct,” carried out inappropriate communication with her and convinced her to send sexually explicit images of herself to him, a complaint says. The events named in the complaint took place from around January 2015 through December 2016, and began when the minor was 14 years old after the two met at an “American Ninja Warrior” event.
The minor told her mother about her experience with Drechsel after he allegedly had sex with her in July 2015, after which point the mother confronted Drechsel, who “did not deny the sexual activity, but rather stated he did not know her age at the time,” according to the complaint.
The two met multiple times and kept in contact until 2019, according to the complaint. In June of last year, the minor filed a police report when she was 19 years old. The complaint says the victim “threatened to harm herself” should her mom call the police beforehand.
Drechsel was cumulatively charged with the 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. He made his first court appearance Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Authorities said they found several sexually explicit photos of the victim when she was a minor on his phone during their investigation.
Representatives for Drechsel, including his attorney, Frank J. Riccio II, did not immediately respond to NBC News’ requests for comment. However, Riccio tweeted that Drechsel intends to plead “not guilty.”
“Mr. Drechsel is presumed innocent of the charges and that presumption will remain throughout the pendency of his case,” Riccio wrote. “It is respectfully requested that you respect the privacy of Mr. Drechsel and his family.”
Drechsel won the last season of “American Ninja Warrior” and has also served as a mentor on “American Ninja Warrior Junior,” a spinoff show featuring children ages 9-14 as competitors.
A spokesperson for NBCUniversal, which is also the parent company of NBC News, said in a statement Tuesday that the network was “shocked and disturbed to learn about the charges alleged against Drew Drechsel” and that it will be severing ties with him.
“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,” the spokesperson said. “Moving forward, the American Ninja Warrior brand will sever all ties with Mr. Drechsel, including his appearance on future seasons of the show.”
Dreschel also co-owns Real Life Ninja Academy, a set of gyms with locations in New York and Connecticut.