Calgary

Calgary man who claims neck was sliced by barbed wire on mountain bike trail charged with fraud

A Calgary man who claimed his neck was sliced by barbed wire on a popular mountain biking trail west of the city and then asked for financial donations online has turned himself in to RCMP.

Doubts were raised about Stelianos Psaroudakis's account of incident and appeal for donations

Stelianos Psaroudakis says he was out for a fun evening bike ride but ended up having his neck sliced by barbed wire. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

A Calgary man who claimed his neck was sliced by barbed wire on a popular mountain biking trail west of the city and then asked for financial donations online has turned himself in after RCMP issued an arrest warrant.

Cochrane RCMP said Friday they have charged Stelianos Psaroudakis, 37, with fraud under $5,000 and public mischief after investigating his claims of being injured in the West Bragg Creek area.

Earlier in the day, RCMP had encouraged Psaroudakis to turn himself in. He later showed up at the detachment in Cochrane.

Insp. Lauren Weare said Psaroudakis was genuinely injured earlier this month, but police believe he lied about how it happened to officers and the public.

"He did come in contact with wire, but he was riding an ATV at a different location at a different time," she said.

Weare said Psaroudakis suffered the injuries on private property where he was an invited guest.

"The injuries are legitimate, absolutely, but not in the manner that he reported," she said.

"There was no intentional putting up of barbed wire across the bike trail to hurt or injure cyclists."

Psaroudakis filed a police report about the alleged incident, spoke to reporters about it, and posted numerous photos online of injuries he claimed he had suffered while mountain biking.

He had asked for $8,000 in donations through GoFundMe, a popular crowdfunding website, but the campaign was later suspended after the company received complaints.

Many in the local mountain biking community had raised questions about Psaroudakis's story, noting details that didn't seem to add up.

His crowdfunding campaign had received more than $800 in donations toward its $8,000 goal before being suspended and the funds frozen, pending an investigation.

On Friday, a GoFundMe spokesperson said all the money has now been refunded to the donors and Psaroudakis has been banned from using the platform in the future.

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

Earlier this month, Psaroudakis told CBC News he was out for a ride on the trails in the West Bragg Creek Provincial Recreation Area — about 40 kilometres west of Calgary — around 8 p.m. on July 5.

He claimed he was on his way down a hill, standing on his pedals, when was knocked off his bike by barbed wire strung between two trees.

He said his neck was sliced from side to side, more than half a centimetre deep in places, and he suffered a bruise on his back and laceration on his liver from the fall.

He displayed injuries on his neck and back to CBC News and other news organizations to support his claims.

Psaroudakis said a friend he was riding with at the time helped him take down the wire before driving him to hospital in Calgary.

He said they left his bike on the trail and when they returned the next day to retrieve it, the bike was gone.

Not 1st crowdfunding campaign

As part of the GoFundMe campaign, Psaroudakis said he wanted to raise $8,000 to buy a new bike, pay for medical bills and buy automated cameras to "donate" for the mountain bike trails in the area.

It's not the first time Psaroudakis has solicited donations online.

In June, he launched a separate GoFundMe campaign asking for money to help get his chihuahua back, saying the pet had escaped his home and had been impounded by the City of Calgary.

In March, he circulated a message soliciting donations of furniture that he said he wanted to collect to give to a yet-to-be-identified family in need so that he could "give a little boy or girl the room they deserve."

A screenshot shows a GoFundMe campaign shared from Stelianos Psaroudakis's Facebook account in May 2016 to raise funds to help 'rebuild Fort McMurray.' (Facebook)

And in May 2016, he created and shared a GoFundMe page asking for donations to "help rebuild" Fort McMurray after the wildfire that devastated the northern Alberta city.

That campaign raised just $10 before it was closed.

​CBC News has tried to reach Psaroudakis but he did not return phone calls.

Police thanked the public and the Bragg Creek mountain biking community for their assistance in the case.