Further fabrications by Relotius included a phone interview with the parents of American football player Colin Kaepernick, who protested police brutality by kneeling during the pre-game singing of the national anthem, Spiegel said.
Anderson and Krone also dismantle a narrative spun about Maria Rodriguez, who, in total fairness to Relotius, at least exists: "Relotius weaves together the story of Maria, restaurateur turned Trump supporter whose treatment for kidney disease becomes increasingly expensive under Obamacare, and that of her 15-year old son Israel, who faces prejudice at the hands of his Fergus Falls classmates". The article continues: "truth and lies are confused in his texts, because some stories are clean. others completely invented".
Relotius' Arizona story wasn't his only falsified work about the United States.
But at a time when political parties are deeply polarised on both sides of the Atlantic, the Spiegel controversy could also bolster those who now regularly portray reporting as "fake news".
"He didn't relent, and he took advantage of a trip to the US for reporting on another story to gather incriminating information about Relotius - and also in order to take steps to protect himself, given that his byline had also appeared on the article", Der Spiegel said.
Claas Relotius committed his deception intentionally, methodically and with criminal intent. Instead, he would reveal, he based the depictions on other media or video recordings.
In recent years, DER SPIEGEL published just under 60 articles by reporter and editor Claas Relotius.
Almost everything else, including a coal plant employee named Neil Becker, who doesn't actually exist, or quotes from a restaurant employee, who was falsely called the owner of a restaurant and whose son was given a fictional illness, was made up.
"Relotius cleverly rebuffed all the attacks, all of Moreno's well-researched pieces of evidence...until there came a point when that didn't work any more, until he finally couldn't sleep any more, hunted by the fear of being discovered", the magazine wrote. The story, first published in Swiss magazine Reportagen, also won the Print category award on Thursday night.
Relotius also recounts a number of events that never occurred, including an an iPad for Beginners class at City Hall, a Super Bowl viewing at Union Pizza, a "Western evening" (allegedly attended by Maria and the fictional Neil), and a high school trip to NY.
Have other media organizations also been affected?
What steps is DER SPIEGEL taking in response?
Relotius then admitted that he had fabricated content a number of articles he had written, it said.
The management of DER SPIEGEL will set up a commission of experienced internal and external persons to investigate the indications of falsification.