Alleged barbed-wire fraudster may have fled Canada, RCMP say 'good riddance'

The Calgary man wanted on fraud and mischief charges for soliciting donations after claiming he was injured by barbed wire strung across a mountain bike trail may be hiding out in Europe.

Stelianos Psaroudakis tried to raise money online after claiming his neck was sliced on a mountain bike trail

An arrest warrant has been issued for Stelianos Psaroudakis, who is facing fraud and mischief charges after he said he was severely injured by barbed wire strung across a trail for mountain bikes. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

The Calgary man wanted on fraud and mischief charges for soliciting donations after claiming he was injured by barbed wire strung across a mountain bike trail may be hiding out in Europe.

Social media posts have surfaced in which Stelianos Psaroudakis — wanted on an arrest warrant after skipping court last week — appears to mock police, saying he's fled to Germany and is never returning to Canada to face the charges against him.

RCMP are aware of the posts but say they're not particularly worried if Psaroudakis is, indeed, gone for good.

"We have not confirmed whether or not he did leave the country but if he did — good riddance," Cpl. Curtis Peters said. 

The posts include some vulgar and lewd comments toward a female RCMP officer, in particular.

The charges against Psaroudakis relate to a July incidentin which he told police and reporters he had been clotheslined by barbed wire strung deliberately at neck height along a popular mountain bike trail near Bragg Creek, about 35 kilometres southwest of Calgary.

Psaroudakis then used the media attention to solicit donations online, but the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe froze his account after questions were raised about the authenticity of his story.

A screenshot of Stelianos Psaroudakis's deactivated online fundraising campaign. (GoFundMe)

Police later said wounds on Psaroudakis' neck were actually inflicted when he lost control of a three-wheeled ATV he had been riding on a friend's property and hit a fence.

Reached by Facebook messenger on Monday, Psaroudakis refused to confirm his whereabouts.

"I might be living in your backyard I might be your neighbor I might be on the other side of the world," he wrote.

"Only God can judge me," he added.

He did reiterate his claim that he intended to use the money he raised online to buy automated cameras for the Bragg Creek trails and make them safer.

While no one had actually booby-trapped the trails in that area, Psaroudakis said similar types of things have happened elsewhere, including to a friend of his in Montreal who was clotheslined "by a rope back in the 90s and almost died."

"I was trying to make something good come out of my mishap," he wrote.

His initial GoFundMe campaign had a stated goal of raising $8,000, which he said he planned to use to buy a new bike — claiming his own had been stolen after he left it on the trail to seek medical attention — as well as to pay for bills related to his injury and to buy automated trail cameras to "donate" for the mountain bike trails in the area "and make them safe."

RCMP in Cochrane initially released this photo of a bike that Stelianos Psaroudakis claimed had been stolen from the trail after he left to seek medical attention, but police later said that turned out to be a lie. (Cochrane RCMP)

Many people who ride the trails in the Bragg Creek area were initially dubious of Psaroudakis' claims and began compiling a list of questions online about details in his story that didn't add up.

RCMP said "numerous tips" from the public helped lead them to lay the charges.

The whole affair created fear, confusion and anger in the local mountain bike community over the summer.

Mountain biker Frans Hettinga said the community has since moved on but when they recently heard Psaroudakis might be hiding out in Europe, many couldn't help but shake their heads and laugh.

"Now that we've heard that he's potentially left the country, we're basically saying, 'What a loser, right?' and 'How could we ever get fooled by someone like that?'" Hettinga said.

Peters said RCMP remain skeptical of whether Psaroudakis actually fled the country but, if he did, they don't plan to expend further police resources to go after him internationally.

"God no," Peters said.

"It's a minor offence. We wouldn't be looking at extradition or anything like that for something trivial like that. We're better off without that expense. So, no, we don't care."

Hettinga said many mountain bikers hold a similar sentiment toward Psaroudakis, at this point.

"People hope he will never show up in Canada again."