March Madness is fast approaching, and that means it is time to get ready for bracket pools. However, if you enter a pool — particularly a higher stakes one — and your organizer claims he has been kidnapped when it comes time to pay out the winnings, you might want to double-check their story.
On Feb. 27, New York State Police arrested a man for faking his own kidnapping to avoid paying out a Super Bowl squares contest he attempted to rig. Police found 60-year-old Robert Brandel in the backseat of his Ford F-150 with a rope tied around his neck attached to the head rest, and his hands and ankles bound with duct tape.
Brandel told police he picked up two males who were involved in his Super Bowl squares contest. He claims that after the men entered his truck, one of them pulled out a gun took $16,000 in cash from the contest. Brandel claims the men made him drive around Western New York at various places for two days against his will and then tied him up in the back seat of his vehicle and left him in a Tops Friendly Market parking lot.
The police investigated and subsequent interviews revealed Brandel fabricated the entire story. He was running a squares contest with a $50,000 payout and had made up some of the names on the squares in hopes of winning the contest and claiming the bulk of the winnings. He didn’t fix enough of the squares as he lost and was short on the $50,000 he owed.
A Super Bowl squares contest involves a 10x10 grid with numbers 0 through 9 randomly assigned to each square. Typically, winnings for Super Bowl squares are determined at the end of each quarter, based on the final digit of each team’s score. You can have as many as 100 participants, although usually some participants will purchase multiple squares.
Logic clearly has little place in this story, but if we are to take this all at face value, it would appear he had claimed a stake on a sizable majority of the squares. If each square is the same price, a prize pool of $50,000 would mean people were paying $500 per square. If he was claiming his “kidnappers” stole $16,000 from him, that would average out to 32 squares.
I’d love to know just how many squares had legitimate purchasers. If he was simply paying out by the quarter, there were only three winners. The first quarter ended with both teams having zero points, so that’s one winner. The second quarter ended with the Patriots leading 3-0, so that’s a second winner. The third and fourth quarters ended with both teams having a 3 at the end of their score — a 3-3 tie at the end of the third and the Patriots leading 13-3 at the end of the fourth — so that’s your third winner. That’s three squares out of 100, and he’s claiming $16,000 was stolen. We might need to bring in a math major unless Brandel is willing to spill the beans on his clearly well thought out plot.
Brandel is being charged with a felony for first-degree scheme to defraud and a misdemeanor for falsely reporting an incident. There is no word yet if Roger Goodell has proposed a formal NFL investigation.