A Pittsburgh man who threatened ex-Steelers wideout Hines Ward will spend two years on probation.
According to Sports Illustrated, 26-year-old Joshua Van Auker pleaded guilty Tuesday to extortion charges after attempting to bilk Ward for $15,000.
Court documents show that in the fall of 2012, Auker contacted Ward’s assistant, Raymond Burgess, claiming to have damaging information about a woman that the four-time Pro Bowler previously dated.
Ward’s assistant revealed that an envelope containing the so-called “dirt” consisted of only papers, not photos.
Burgess declined to otherwise describe its contents.
Following the initial threat on Ward, Burgess went to investigators and afterward spoke again with Van Auker, who repeated the extortion demand by saying, “It’s called buying silence, brother.”
Detectives observing the second encounter in October arrested Van Auker.
Ward’s alleged former girlfriend was never identified in the complaint, and authorities never described the information Van Auker claimed to have or said whether it was even true.
A district attorney’s spokesman didn’t immediately comment Friday.
More on extortion plot on Hines Ward in the video below:
Ward, 36, was selected by Pittsburgh in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He the retired from the Steelers last year after 14 seasons with the team.
Over the course of his career, Ward snagged 1,000 catches for 12,021 yards — both franchise records — and 85 receiving touchdowns. He also rushed for 428 yards and one score on 57 attempts.
In addition to four Pro Bowl appearances (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004), Ward has also been selected to the All-Pro second team three times, and was MVP of the Super Bowl XL, which the Steelers won in 2006
Shortly after his retirement, Ward signed on with NBC Sports to be a football analyst, highlighted by his role on the Sunday Night Football pregame show Football Night in America.