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Morning Briefing: Man accused of faking robbery to avoid paying out Super Bowl pool prizes

It was a sad moment when New York state police found Robert Brandel, 60, in the back of his pickup truck last week. Brandel had his hands and ankles duct-taped together and a rope around his neck, struggling to get free.

Brandel had organized a Super Bowl pool, the one where you put your name in a square and hope the score at each quarter matches the score you have. Everyone has probably been in one of those pools at some point, only the one Brandel organized was for high stakes: $50,000.

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When police freed Brandel, he said he had $16,000 when two men held him up at gunpoint and drove him around for two days. They had guns and spent the two days spending his money while he was tied up in the back.

Police found the story a bit fishy, and after some checking, turned up a few facts. Brandel had entered the pool several times using different names and didn’t have enough money to pay out the $50,000 he had promised. He had hoped that by entering several times himself, he would win all the money that other people who entered his pool had paid.

He ended up winning nothing. He had collected the $16,000 from everyone else, had avoided anyone who had won prize money in the pool, but the pressure was mounting.

Brandel is being charged with a felony first-degree scheme to defraud and a misdemeanor of falsely reporting an incident.

Where’s Josh?

Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson was supposed to appear at an autograph signing at a Phoenix grocery store last week. Dozens of fans arrived early and waited in line so they could meet the second-year player. And they waited, and waited, and waited and…. Jackson never arrived.

The fans were understandably unhappy and employees at the store contacted the Suns to let them know what was going on.

Eventually, interim general manager James Jones arrived and tried to smooth things over. He apologized for Jackson and offered to send the fans an autograph in the mail, along with Suns tickets.

Free Suns tickets? Didn’t these people suffer enough?

Apparently the Suns fined Jackson $20,000.

Jackson told the Arizona Republic he skipped the session because of “family issues.”

Reader poll

We asked readers to vote in our poll to tell us if they were disappointed that the Dodgers did not sign Bryce Harper. After receiving 25,324 votes, here are the results:

Yes, I am disappointed, 22.4%

No, I am not disappointed, 77.6%

Shoe business

Remember how Zion Williamson’s Nike shoe fell apart during a Duke game last week?

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Skechers remembers, and tried to take advantage of the situation over the weekend.

The shoe company took out full page ads in several newspapers (hey, are newspapers still around?) that showed a pair of Nikes. One shoe was normal, but the other was torn apart just like Williamson’s. The wording on the ad?

“Just blew it.”

Need tickets?

Signing Bryce Harper is already paying off for the Philadelphia Phillies in ticket sales. Since signing the slugger, the Phillies have sold 180,000 more tickets than in the same time period a year ago, including an astounding 80,000 within 12 hours after the deal was announced.

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