The Case of the Creepy Piggyback Grifter

Here's the strangest crime we've heard about in a long time — a man is allegedly working his way across the country, getting close to high school sports teams, and then asking, paying, or forcing the athletes to give him piggyback rides. That's it. Just piggyback rides.

The AP reports that 28-year-old Sherwin Shayegan (that's him in the Cats uniform) has tried his piggyback grifter routine in Washington, Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota. He comes to high school sporting events, pretends to be with one of the teams, and starts pitching in with water-boy-type duties. Then, when the time is right (and really, when is the time not right), he goes in for a piggyback ride. Some athletes have apparently given him rides out of pity — they say he initially appears to be intellectually disabled in some way. But according to Mike Colbrese, executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, "What people don't realize is that he's very smart. He knows how to play the system. He just knows what to say and how to say it."

His piggybacking can apparently be dangerous — he weighs 240 pounds, and has been known to simply jump on athletes' backs without asking. But is it sexual? That's unclear. Colbrese says that at a Spokane, Washington basketball tournament, "He was jumping on players' backs after they showered and came out of the locker room." But he's never been accused of doing anything more than piggybacking. He has a long list of prior convictions, including several assault charges associated with his piggyback problem, but no sex crimes.

Nobody seems to know what Shayegan really wants out of his piggyback rides, whether they're a fetish or just part of his apparent longstanding desire to be part of a team. One thing's for sure: tricking high school kids into letting you jump on their backs is not okay, and it can get you in a lot of trouble. Shayegan is currently wanted in several Washington towns — the town of Anacortes has told its citizens that if they see him, they should call 911 immediately. His antics may seem childish, but soon he may have to pay a pretty serious penalty.

A 5-State Ban for 'Piggyback Bandit' [AP, via ABC]