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Bizarre Twist in Roethlisberger Assault Case

7/21/2009 11:24 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Ben RoethlisbergerSources connected to the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault case claim the psychiatric care the accuser says she's under has nothing to do with Ben .... it has to do with a relationship she had with a man who never existed.

Andrea McNulty has sued Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl champ, claiming he sexually assaulted her in July 2008. Sources tell us Roethlisberger and McNulty had a sexual liaison at the time but Ben insists it was purely consensual. We're told the two knew each other because Ben had stayed at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe over the last several years for golf tournaments -- and she worked at the hotel.

Sources connected with the case tell us a former co-worker of McNulty's at Harrah's came forward with this incredible story -- that around the time McNulty hooked up with Roethlisberger, she was allegedly involved with a married man. The man's wife, we're told, created an email account, posing as a U.S. soldier in Iraq. The wife began corresponding with McNulty to gain information. We're told the former co-worker has said McNulty fell in love with the fictitious soldier and began telling people she was engaged to him. When the wife stopped the correspondence, McNulty then began telling people the soldier was killed in action.

We're told McNulty told at least one co-worker she began seeing a psychiatrist because of the phantom soldier.

We tried repeatedly getting in touch with McNulty. So far we have been unable to reach her.

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