A man was arrested for faking his own kidnapping after his alleged scheme to defraud a Super Bowl betting pool went awry.
Robert Brandel, 60, was found tied up in the backseat of his pickup truck at a Tops grocery store in Newfane, New York, on Wednesday. His hands and ankles were bound with duct tape and his neck was tied to the headrest with a rope, according to a press release from New York State Police.
Brandel told officers that he had picked up two acquaintances who had been part of his Super Bowl betting pool. He said after they were in the car, one of the men held out a gun and took $16,000 in cash that he had from the game. Brandel told officers that the men made him drive around Western New York for two days before leaving him in the parking lot on Tuesday night.
Investigators now say Brandel had set up a game of Super Bowl squares with a $50,000 payout, but was unable to make payments to other players after a scheme to defraud them went awry.
Super Bowl squares, or football squares, uses a grid with 10 columns and 10 rows. Each square in the grid corresponds to a potential score in the game, and participants buy squares and put the money into a pool. If the score matches the participant’s square at the end of a quarter or at the end of the game, they win money from the pool.
Brandel had allegedly included fake names on some of the squares in his grid, hoping to win most of the money for himself. But he ended up short, and was unable to cover the payouts, according to the press release.
Arresting officer John Spero told BuzzFeed News that he felt the story fall apart quickly once police arrived on the scene.
“There were a couple of warning signs,” said Spero, who is an investigator with the New York State Police. “He wasn’t a good liar.”
Spero noticed first that Brandel’s hands were not tightly bound. He was also suspicious about the fact that Brandel was sitting in the backseat with the window down and had his keys on him.
“You need the keys for the window,” said Spero. “That was a big sign for me.”
There were other inconsistencies, too.
“He said he had a bag over his head, but he knew where the phone was thrown out [of the car window],” Spero added, pointing out that it would hard to know where the phone was tossed out if you were unable to see.
Spero said that investigators had obtained a copy of the Super Bowl squares printout that Brandel was using, and that other officers had learned from Brandel’s wife that he was running the game.
Police say Brandel later admitted to them he was running the scheme, and that he had faked the kidnapping after he was unable to pay. He has been charged with a scheme to defraud in the first degree, which is a class E felony and carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. He was also charged with falsely reporting an incident, which is a misdemeanor.
“He was actually a very nice guy,” said Spero. “He just got caught up in something and it went south pretty quick.”
Brandel is due in court in Newfane, New York, on March 19.