A St. Cloud man, who was the American Ninja Warrior winner in 2019, was arrested on Tuesday after authorities said he had a several year unlawful relationship with an underage girl.
Andrew "Drew" Drechsel, 31, of St. Cloud, was charged with 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 had sought sex with a minor and got her to send him sexual explicit images, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Arrested at his St. Cloud home, he made his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, prior to his transfer to the District of New Jersey.
In part of a statement shared to Twitter, Drechsel's attorney Frank J. Riccio II posted a statement on Twitter on behalf of the athlete that stated, "I am representing Drew Drechsel with respect to the criminal charges filed against him. 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. It is respectfully requested that you respect the privacy of Mr. Drechsel and his family."
According to United States District Court records, the female victim, 19, made a complaint to the Cherry Hill Police Department in New Jersey that she began a sexual relationship with Drechsel, which began when she was 15 and he was 26.
The victim first met Drechsel in 2014 during the taping of the television show, “American Ninja Warrior.” The show features hundreds of competitors attempting to complete series of obstacle courses of increasing difficulty in various cities across the United States.
Dreschel was the winner of last year's "American Ninja Warrior" competition.
They exchanged telephone numbers and began texting. In July of 2015, the victim was invited to Drechsel’s Ninja Gym in Connecticut as her 15th birthday present. At the time, she lived in New Jersey. During a text exchange, they discussed sexual activity.
When she arrived at the gym, she spent time with Drechsel and his girlfriend. When his girlfriend left around lunch, the victim went into Drechsel’s office, where they performed oral sex on each other, according to the complaint. They also had sex on a mattress in the gym.
The victim told her mother about the activity the following day. The victim’s mother then confronted Drechsel about the sexual activity with her daughter. He did not deny that it occurred, but said he did not know her age at the time, the complaint stated.
In January 2016, Drechsel texted the teen and said he would be in New Jersey and wanted to meet her for sex. They met at a movie theater and he picked her up in a Ford Focus. They drove to a restaurant parking lot where they had sex, the complaint stated.
On multiple occasions, Drechsel asked the victim to communicate by Skype rather then text message to avoid detection. He told her to be nude and engage in sexual activity with herself.
In November of 2019, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Drechsel’s home in Connecticut and seized a cell phone. On the phone were videos and photos of the victim engaging in sexual activity with herself.
The count of use of interstate commerce to entice carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; the count of enticement to travel for illicit sexual conduct carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; the count of travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; and the count of manufacture of child pornography carries a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison. All of the counts also carry a maximum fine of $250,000 per count.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.