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Hockey Kid Mikey: Anatomy of a deception

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Mikey, the teenage hockey blogger from Minnesota, seems beyond a reasonable doubt a late-fortysomething man from a Minneapolis suburb who likes travel, food, was married and has sex profiles on two gay hookup sites. His deceit was discovered when he fell in love with Jimmy, a contributor to his blog, and his story started to unravel.

Mikey (which is how this person will be mentioned during the article) maintained in three e-mails to me that he is in fact a teenage hockey player, who panicked and then claimed he was 40 so he could disappear. His last reply to me was April 30 when he said he would prove he was real. But he never answered two subsequent e-mails in which he was asked about inconsistencies in his story. (The e-mails he sent are at the end of this article.)

While Outsports has a name and details, including three connected e-mail addresses; a phone number; a resume; minutes from a condominium homeowners association meeting; postings on travel, food and Minnesota high school hockey sites; and a social networking profile, we will not print the name short of this person giving an on-the-record admission. There has been no evidence that Mikey committed any crime and no underage reader of his blog has stepped forward to claim they were propositioned.

Mikey’s blog, “A Gay Hockey Kid’s Life,” gained prominence in December after it was featured in an Outsports blog post I wrote. The following disclaimer ran with the item: “I do not know Mikey’s identity but have corresponded with him enough to believe he is who he says he is. I have read all his entries and nothing about his blog seems fantastical. But, as always, every reader needs to make up his own mind.”

After this blog item ran, traffic on Mikey’s blog increased dramatically and his site became a robust meeting place for many young people who saw a kindred spirit. Mikey did one interview for an online Podcast and was set to do a radio interview in Toronto when the blog was shut down April 24 and he dropped out of sight.

Mikey was tripped up by his private e-mails and chats with people he met via the blog. His blog remained remarkably consistent, and he likely could have kept writing it indefinitely. However, he developed a close online relationship with Jimmy, a 23-year-old Canadian. It was through this that Mikey’s story started to unravel. Mikey admitted to Jimmy and then to the owners of the server that hosted his blog that he was a fake and was an older man. The server owners then shut down the blog.

Mikey’s blog even started out with a lie. He told me in a December e-mail that his blog profile photo, showing a player in a hockey jersey getting ready for a face-off, was him from a tryout with a U.S. development team. In fact, it was a player who was with the University of Minnesota hockey team at the time. When asked about this in April, Mikey e-mailed me that he was always vague about whom the picture was of. In fact, in December he wrote me: “the jersey is from a usa hockey showcase that ive played in twice so thats the usa thing.” He also wrote this on Formspring.com in reply to a question about the picture: “The hockey image on the right [of his blog] is me.”

Mikey was always careful on his blog to keep his story straight. He had e-mailed to the computer server a copy of the school calendar for a school district in suburban Minnesota, along with a copy of the practice and game schedule for a high school baseball team’s 2010 season (Mikey had made references on his blog to his friend Josh being on the baseball team). Such information could have allowed him to write about events without getting caught in a discrepancy.

He also allegedly copied the personas of two real Minnesota-area high school hockey players. There were 12 pictures of one player, and one allegedly of the player's brother, on his blog server. He used both names in deceiving Jimmy. After Jimmy caught him in a lie, he asked him, “Who are those kids to you?” Mikey replied: “kids like me when I was there [sic] age.” Other readers of Mikey's blog have come forward with names they discovered when researching high school hockey players in Minnesota with similar backgrounds to Mikey.

Jimmy started to unravel Mikey’s deceit in April after he caught him lying about an out-of-town award Mikey said he had won. Jimmy had wanted to tell his mother about the award. After much prodding, Mikey admitted to Jimmy that he had lied.

The final post on Mikey's blog. Click to enlarge.

On April 24, Jimmy posted a message on the blog (click on photo right) saying, Mikey was a “40-something dude who lives in Minnesota.” Mikey had first told Jimmy he was 28, then 38. At one point during his admission, via chat, the person who blogged for months about being a high school student told Jimmy that he had to leave to give a presentation at a meeting.

After the blog was closed, Jimmy e-mailed me details of how he discovered Mikey was lying:

“Over the past couple of months we've become very, very close. He of course needed an identity. He gave me a name, etc. I busted him on that name after bout three weeks. He gave a sob story bout how scared he was n panicked then told me the 'truth'. He was this dude’s teammate. So on this went until he was selected to go to DC. I was talking to my mom n she wanted me to send me somethin bout the trip cause it was quite the honour for the kid...

“When I tried looking and found nothing I emailed him askin for something I could send my mom. He was sorta vague but he said he'd send me somethin right away but had to go to a banquet. So while I was waiting, I thought I'd check to see if they'd posted anything new on his baseball team's site so I could update my parents on that as well. It was then that I discovered Mikey had hit a homer in his game on Saturday, at about the same time I was chatting with him from DC.

“So then I was pissed. I then went to Facebook and requested friending mikey ... the real kid and not even knowing who I was he friended me, which allowed me access to a whole different world from the one mikey had led me to believe. Upon further checking with the help of Brian from his site hosting company, we found out who [he] was - and he ain’t no kid (which I was still hoping), he was some 48 year old ****wad who may or may not be the uncle? cousin? of the kid I thought was mikey... so yea, there ya have it. He's an asshole for what he did. Not to me but to every kid out there.”

The information about Mikey was obtained from many sources. Foremost among them was JD Thomas, one of the server owners. JD and his partner Brian had donated server space to Mikey so he could move his blog from Blogger and have a more polished look. JD’s background includes network and computer-based forensic research and investigation. He found many documents and e-mails Mikey had kept on the donated mail and webhosting space. I also heard from more than a dozen people who provided me with tips, photos, e-mails, transcripts of chats and insights into Mikey.

I have based my judgments that information:

Mikey’s location

All of Mikey’s blog posts were sent from IP addresses in and around Plymouth, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb, according to server records. (All of Jimmy’s posts and blog comments came from IP addresses in Manitoba Canada, where he says he is from).

Mikey’s personas

Mikey has three connected e-mail addresses. All have user names that include a word associated with hockey, plus the number 21. When I asked Mikey about those addresses, he wrote in an e-mail that two of them belonged to his godfather: “our emauil addys r similar cause growin up he was sorta my hockey idol n his fav player was brian bonnin who played at the u won the hobby baker n played in the pros a lil bit. his email addys got the 21 from brian playin at the u n i coppied that when i set up my real email addy n it was the number i always wanted to be when i played.”

Yet, one of those same user names is also connected to sex profiles on Manhunt (belonging to a 6-foot, 34-year-old from Minneapolis) and another sex site (belonging to a “hung” 6-foot, 195-pound 30-year-old from Plymouth, Minn). The Manhunt ad contains no text, while the ad on the other site says: “I’m a pretty normal guy into sports, travel, cooking, music, movies, outdoors stuff. I play hockey a lot and love the sport. Looking for masculine jock types for fun.” Both profiles have the same photo – a tight crop of a man holding his erect penis.

Another of the user names is used in a resume Mikey e-mailed himself. It is also tied to a Linkedin profile, describing a man from the Greater Minneapolis area who graduated college in 1984, and later received his law degree. Based on the normal timeline for someone going to college, a person graduating in 1984 would be around 48 years old.

Personal details

In addition to the resume and sex ads, one of the user names is found posting in online travel and food sites.

--A person with this user name is married (or was at least in 2005). On a travel forum where he posted extensively about his trips, he wrote favorably about coming back from his honeymoon in Thailand in 2005.

--A person with this user name likes food and posted on a food forum. On his blog, Mikey regularly wrote about food, so much that it became a running gag with his commenters.

Jonathan, an avid reader of Mikey’s blog, compared the tone on the travel and food forums with that of the blog:

“If you read through the various things he posted, he sounds a lot like Mikey. He talks about food constantly, and writes in a sort of passionate focused manner. He also writes short sentences that string together into lists. If you read through a bunch of them, you can sort of hear Mikey's voice coming through.”

-- A person with this user name loves hockey. He has posted on various hockey websites, including that of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and is a member of a high school hockey forum in a vacation area of Minnesota, where he apparently has a vacation home.

Mikey’s phone number

One of Mikey’s user names is tied to a phone number with a Minneapolis prefix. It is the number he used to do a January podcast with the website “Ben & Dave’s Six Pack.” The same number is also tied into the resume and to a report from a Plymouth, Minn., homeowners association; the person with that phone number was elected to a two-year term of the board in 2006.

When he gave the phone number to Ben and Dave prior to the podcast, he said he normally did not give it out because his father goes over the bill. Mike told them to say they worked for a college or something if his dad picked up. Dave Rubin wrote me: “We called him on an actual number, that he made me promise we would never call back because he said his father checks his phone.”

However, when I asked Mikey about the phone number in April, he wrote: “my godfather n who had nothin to do wit this other than givin me n my bros cell phones for our bdays n payin for them.” In a previous e-mail, he wrote: “my godfather whos only role in this was givin me n my bros cell phone service.”

If his godfather is paying for the service, why would Mikey tell Ben and Dave that “my dad goes over the bill”? And since the phone number goes back to at least 2006, it would be odd for someone to gift Mikey with an existing phone number. After the blog was closed, I called the number and left a message (it was an automated voice greeting) but never got a return call.

The Podcast

Mikey’s Podcast with “Ben & Dave’s Six Pack” was the only voice interview he did (he allegedly turned down an interview request with Minnesota Public Radio, and never followed up on a request by a Toronto station). After Mikey’s blog was shut down, I asked Rubin what he thought about the Podcast:

“I actually fully bought it after we spoke. I told Ben that you could hear the nervousness and although his voice was very deep sometimes that's just a puberty thing. Ben was a little more skeptical, as were some of our listeners.”

I have listened to the podcast four times and I find it impossible to determine roughly how old the speaker is. Some readers are convinced it’s an older person, while others are convinced he’s a teenager. Web searches find software available to alter one’s voice when using a computer-based phone service or a cellphone, though there is no evidence this occurred in this case.

Other inconsistencies

Two other people – Danny and Tyler – had Mikey admit that pictures he e-mailed them were of someone else. Both incidents occurred in December.

Tyler, who described himself as a 16-year-old into motocross, had a blog “I’ll Do Tricks for You.” In one post, he described that Mikey sent him photos that Tyler had seen on other sites, and when he confronted Mikey, he admitted they weren’t of him. Tyler’s blog disappeared shortly after Mikey’s blog shut down and he did not respond at an e-mail I sent requesting more information on the photos.

Danny sent me copies of extensive chat sessions he had with Mikey around Christmas. Danny was sent a photo that showed what looked like an obvious teenager in a blue baseball cap and Kansas City Chiefs T-shirt. Danny found this pic and two nude photos of the same person on a gay porn blog and confronted Mikey on it. After dodging numerous questions, Mikey admitted the photos were not of him.

“Yea the pic looks enough like me that a buddy thought it was n sent it to me,” was Mikey’s explanation to Danny. It seems unusual that Mikey's buddy would recognize a photo from a gay porn site and, thinking it looked like Mikey, send it to him. Mikey consistently wrote on his blog that only two people (his younger brother and straight friend) knew he was gay, and that he was paranoid about being outed. So how did he happen to have a buddy who frequented gay porn sites?

Mikey also used the photo he sent to Danny for his profile picture on a gay youth website.

Hoax of a hoax?

In comments on Outsports’ blog and in some e-mails, there are still some people who think Mikey is 18, but created the persona of a fortysomething so he could disappear and go to college unnoticed. I don’t buy it.

The Mikey who blogged was ultra concerned about the teens who read his posts; he wrote with compassion and caring and offered good advice and support. He said he kept the blog going because of numerous e-mails from other teenagers, including athletes, who were inspired by what he wrote. It would be inconceivable such a person would concoct a fake persona to disappear, knowing the pain it would cause these people (some of whom said they contemplated suicide before discovering Mikey’s blog).

If Mikey was real and wanted to disappear, he could have quit the blog in a cleaner way, saying that he was graduating and needed to focus on college. Once the blog was closed, I gave Mikey the opportunity to reveal his true identity to me, promising that I would protect his anonymity while letting everyone know he was real. He never responded to that offer, though it remains open.

This is how Jimmy put it in an e-mail to me:

“Unfortunately, this isn't some master plan for Mikey to go hide in college and make the pros. It’s just some dude who had an idea, his idea grew -- then exploded and now has blown up.”

Short of an on-the-record admission of responsibility, we’ll never know with 100% certainly who the blogger is and what his motivation was. But using the legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” my verdict is that Mikey was not a high school hockey player. What do you think?

Addendum

Here are the last three e-mails I received from Mikey after I asked him to come clean. He never replied to two others requesting more information:

April 26:
jim, i am who i say i am but got caught up in a lie to a person online that i fell in luv wit ... n then tried to break things off wit him n
he dint react very well n told every1 that i was a fake n that he figured out who i was. im a huge coward n dint come clean to him wit my real identity n he told every1 who he thougth i was. this things a mess n i ended up havin a series of panic attacks n breakin down n goin to the hospital n then comin out to my mom n my godfather whos only role in this was givin me n my bros cell phone service. ill write u a better explanation later but wanted to get u that much rite now.

mikey

April 26
i know u r n i know my godfathers ok but im not sure wit my mom shes mostly worried that im like dyin i think n i think so too i cant stop cryin. i hjust talked to the blog guy n told him the deal but after all this im like more unwillin to tell him or ne1 who i really am cause if i woulda this time i would be out now n that sucks cause then no1s gonna believe me n all these kids who email me think im a fraud n they have no hope n thts the worst thing of all cause i can never get that trust back n now they think they have no 1 left to believe in

can u wait till i at least talk to jimmy n tell him i dunno what

no one know who i am online at all .. the person i told jimmy i was was fake n then i let him believe it was [deleted] whos my godfather n who had nothin to do wit this other than givin me n my bros cell phones for our bdays n payin for them .. now he knows bout me but thinks i shouldnt tell ne1 online who i am at all cause all the peple hate me now n wanna out me

ill talk to jimmy today n let u know when u can saysomethin

id call u but i cant stop cryinn to talk

mikey

April 30
jim, sorry im late but ive been sick n in n outta the dr im havin anxiety attacks n throwin up constantly. i can prove who i am if u want that

i dint know the pic was [deleted], i said that it looked like me n i played in a tourney wit him n have that jersy n actly it does look like me .... otherwise i always was vague on my anwsers boput that n toher things too

i went in to delete my gyc profile which i created when i was like 15 or 16 n couldnt get in cause im sure some1 reported it as a fake

[Deleted] ia my godfather like i told u ... i was workin on doin a resume n askin him questions n he sent me his as an example but when i got it there was other shit at hte bottom so i sent it back to him

our emauil addys r similar cause growin up he was sorta my hockey idol n his fav player was brian bonnin who played at the u won the hobby baker n played in the pros a lil bit. his email addys got the 21 from brian playin at the u n i coppied that when i set up my real email addy n it was the number i always wanted to be when i played ... but hardly ever really was.

i set up my email addy for online stuff that wouldnt mix ne gay stuff wit my real addy which i never gave out online so yea mines the same as his but thats on purpose ... my real addys got the 21 in it too

i planned to come toly clean to jimmy but lots of shit has happened this week that makes that not proly possible. im gettin death trhreats, some1 was in my email act readin shit n emailin me bout it from other addys n all sorts of othe shit thats toly freaked me out n now ive been in urgent care n the drs a ton to stop me from throwin up n havin panic attacks. so im paranoid n scared n like missin the person i thought i luved till he went like crazy n dont know what to do n hate that ive let every1 down when all i wanted to do was tell my styor n help siome kids know there not alone. so im gonna try to get better this weekend n maybe next week wont sukc so much.

we can talk on mon if u wanna u can caoll or whatever u wanna do or need from me b4 i try n disapiier back to my real life n finish hs qui8tly.