Sarah Phillips ESPN, ESPN had unexpectedly ended its relationship with freelance sports gambling columnist Sarah Phillips on Tuesday, just hours after a story surfaced online alleging that Phillips was involved in a fraud and extortion scheme.
Phillips, a self-described hard-core gambler, was hired by ESPN in August of 2011 to write for its Page 2, now known as Playbook, after getting exposure for her work at the gambling site Covers.com.
According to the website Deadspin, no one at either Covers or ESPN ever met Phillips personally, and it is not clear whether ESPN conducted a background check before taking her on as a freelancer.
The report published by Deadspin claims that Phillips and her partner, Nilesh ‘Nick’ Prasad, received thousands of dollars from two men identified as ‘Ben’ and ‘Matt.’ The article also raised the possibility that the name ‘Sarah Phillips’ may be an alias.
According to the story, 19-year-old ‘Ben’ was the founder of the Facebook page NBA Memes. Phillips recruited him for a business partnership, promising major returns, but then she and Prasad allegedly scammed ‘Ben’ into giving them the administrator rights to his page.
Within days, the duo deleted ‘Ben’s’ name from the list of administrators and took over the memes page, turning it into a getaway page to their own site, according to Deadspin.
Deadspin also claims that Prasad misrepresented himself to ‘Ben,’ falsely claiming that he was the managing director of ESPN.com.
Meanwhile, ‘Matt,’ a Covers reader in his 30s who corresponded with Phillips, told Deadspin that he began working with the writer on her proposed start-up site and agreed to give her $2,100 to help her buy ad space.