By David Purdum / @DavidPurdum
I just wanted to interview Incarcerated Bob.
Instead, I got the names of family members and my home address published on Twitter in a threatening manner. I got publicly accused of being affiliated with the “KKK in the south.” Incarcerated Bob even went as far as to fabricate an email exchange between us that never occurred, posting it on his site in a sensational piece of fiction that had me using racial slurs and attempting extortion.
All I really wanted was an interview.
I’ve covered the sports betting industry for five years, for multiple sites. There is an ugly underbelly. What I uncovered this past week is unquestionably the slimiest of all.
Incarcerated Bob first gained notoriety as a regular caller on the Boomer and Carton Show on WFAN in New York. He provided picks and claimed to have inside sources feeding him information about the sports world.
Some people think it’s all one guy running the scheme. Others believe there are just too many Twitter accounts, too many email addresses and way too many ugly stories to be just one person. As with any elaborate scam, though, it is very difficult to nail down the parameters.
But one thing is very clear – Incarcerated Bob was not happy when he became aware that criminal background checks were being performed on a middle-aged man from Elmont, N.Y., named Louis Mendez.
On May 9, 2011, Louis Mendez of Elmont, N.Y., was accepted as a “Tiered Revenue Share Sportsbook Promoter” of an offshore sports book. According to registration records provided by a first-hand source, Mendez signed up under the username Randizzle14, with the email address Randizzle14@gmail.com and phone number with a New York 347 area code. Mendez registered with the website Gamblersfinalword.blogspot.com. At the top of that site, it currently reads “Incarcerated Bob’s Picks-N-Rumors.”
Randizzle, aka @TeamMoneyPicks, is a major player in Bob’s network. Randizzle may very well be Bob, who may very well be Mendez.
According to his Linkedin page, Incarcerated Bob hails from Elmont, N.Y. Mendez’s criminal record lists the same Elmont, N.Y. address, but has him currently residing in Elmhurst, N.Y.
The criminal background checks began last week. It became personal on Thursday.
Before the background checks were completed, I received a barrage of venomous tweets from @BigEastProfit, one of the Twitter accounts linked and likely controlled by Incarcerated Bob.
He posted my home address, named a family member in a threatening tone, accused me of being affiliated with the KKK and added things like “we have investigators, as well” and “Stop now, my friend.”
Four days later, @IncarceratedBob tweeted the following (notice the hashtag):
A scan of the #Thinkonit hashtag archive on Twitter reveals Incarcerated Bob has used it frequently, including Monday in regards to Tim Tebow signing with the Patriots. Surely, just a coincidence, right?
But the bigger question is why would @BigEastProfit know criminal background checks were being performed on Louis Mendez? The increase in severity of the threats and the acknowledgement of the ongoing investigation were, at minimum, indications that I was on the right track.
The confirmation came a few days later from a financial executive and recreational sports bettor, who we’ll call Steve.
Steve had been on Twitter for only a short time, when he received a series of direct messages from @IncarceratedBob.
Steve had gotten off to a hot start with his picks on Twitter and quickly built a following of a few thousand followers. Incarcerated Bob saw an opportunity and offered Steve $10,000 to buy his account for six months. He tried to persuade Steve by telling him that his account only had value for a limited time
Incarcerated Bob gave Steve a phone number. It was the same number with the 347 area code that Louis Mendez used to register with the online sports book.
The two talked, but Steve declined the offer. Shortly after, a Twitter account with the exact same avatar as Steve’s and a slightly altered handle appeared. And the vicious attacks on Steve’s real Twitter account began.
Why even give him the publicity, other writers asked? Why put yourself through the harassment that comes from trying to interview Incarcerated Bob?
I considered it all and came up with a line of reasoning that is going to come off as overly dramatic and righteous, but here it is:
It started with a report that Floyd Mayweather bet $5.9 million on the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last Monday. The report was typical of Bob’s crew, completely unattributed. It came from his @Pregame_Steam account, which uses a logo of the sports betting site Pregame.com as its avatar. @Pregame_Steam is not affiliated with Pregame.com, according to company CEO R.J. Bell.
@Pregame_Steam also tweeted last Monday night that a $50,000 bet had been placed on the Heat -7 at the MGM sports book.
According to Jay Rood, Vice President of MGM Race and Sports, no such bet had been placed.
After being called out on their reports, the IBN crew has since begun reporting their make-believe big bets are occurring at offshore books. Their Vegas sources must have disappeared.
Despite the obvious and redundant signs of fraud, mainstream media outlets continue to treat the Incarcerated Bob Network as a legitimate source. The Mayweather bet is the most recent example. Some called @Pregame_Steam a Vegas site. Others were duped by the avatar and credited Pregame.com.
The Chicago Tribune ran an online report with the headline, “Vegas site claims Mayweather bet $6M on Heat.”
The article’s lead: “Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather is betting nearly $6 million on the Miami Heat to beat the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night, according to pregame.com.”
The New York Daily News, the Daily Mail in the UK, Bleacher Report, FoxSports and many, many more outlets all published forms of the unsubstantiated rumor. Some were more cautious than others, but they all unknowingly helped fuel Incarcerated Bob’s persona and ego.
Incarcerated Bob uses these ridiculous, made-up reports to manipulate the media. He then uses the notoriety he receives to sucker sports bettors into buying picks from his handicappers. In doing so, he damages the credibility of my profession and the industry I cover. Plus, I feel bad for the naive bettors who are conned into believing Incarcerated Bob is something he’s not.
Look no further than the illegitimacy of Incarcerated Bob’s Twitter following for proof. As of Friday morning, 78 percent of his 105,000 followers were listed as fake, with another 12 percent inactive, according to fakers.statuspeople.com.
In addition, if you believe that @IncarceratedBob and @BigEastProfit are operated by the same person, as the above hashtag coincidence seems to indicate, then clients deserve an explanation for why they gave out opposite sides for Sunday’s Game 2 of NBA Finals.
I’m far from the only member of the media to be attacked by Incarcerated Bob. He’s relentlessly harassed ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, going as far as tweeting threats to Florio’s son. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman also has been targeted. He’s taunted reality TV star Snooki and even went after the Ole Miss football program, including coach Hugh Freeze.
I mentioned to another media member and fellow victim of Incarcerated Bob’s attacks that Bob’s shtick was hurting our profession. His response, in my mind, solidified that I had to follow through on this story.
“There’s a lot of fun in this biz but it gets worse and worse every day,” he said.
He’s right. The media often deserves criticism, but it certainly doesn’t make our job easier, when we have people intentionally trying to deceive reporters with fabricated info. I felt that if I didn’t pursue this story, I was not doing my part to help the future of journalism and media. The bad guys are winning, I thought.
See, pretty damn dramatic and righteous, especially since all I really wanted was to interview Incarcerated Bob. I thought he deserved the chance to tell his side of the story.
All interview requests to Incarcerated Bob purposely were made through Twitter only. When he didn’t respond, I asked anyone who had purchased picks from Incarcerated Bob’s crew to reach out to me, adding that both positive and negative stories were welcome.
About a dozen emails came in, some with detailed tales of Bob’s handicappers trying to bilk clients out of money with things like unannounced commission fees after winning weeks. Others had screen shots of losing picks that evidently had been deleted or were not included in Bob’s handicapping records. Several who responded were embarrassed that they had fallen for the ploy.
“It’s inexcusable that someone with my level of education (I’m actually a real doctor, not just a silly twitter handle) would be so gullible,” one former client of the Incarcerated Bob crew wrote in an email. “But I was completely unfamiliar with twitter and never considered that someone could just create dozens of false extra personas to create positive reviews for a service. I also didn’t realize that tweets could be deleted (I was VERY unfamiliar with twitter) so I didn’t see how his record could be fake.”
Another former IBN client wrote: “I lost money with his plays. Especially bowl season. But it was cheap, so I couldn’t really complain. The worst thing about that set of guys is that they (make) 5 unit, 10 unit, 20 unit plays. But then they drop these 100 unit plays, and the guy taking my action has limits. I’m a college kid. So if I’m playing a $10 unit, I can bet $50, $100, $200, whatever. But $1,000? No way. Nobody I knows can afford to take that. And then they brag about how they went 2-1 but are +104 units on the day when the customers actually don’t have the ability to get down on that action. I probably learned the most valuable lesson of my young betting career from them, however. You can’t blindly tail picks. So I guess for that $90 bucks, I actually gained something, just not money I wanted.
There were a couple of positive responses, made exclusively on Twitter, from bettors who said they made money off of Incarcerated Bob’s network of handicappers.
Between threats, @BigEastProfit asked that I mention how Incarcerated Bob had donated to a random golf outing for a group of guys who were remembering a lost friend.
I also learned, though, that there were entire Twitter accounts dedicated to exposing Incarcerated Bob. It was all very telling, but not as incriminating as what happened last Tuesday.
Around 8 a.m., I received an email from Vanessa F., with the subject header “Randizzle Info.”
Vanessa F. bought picks from Randizzle, I thought? Hmmm …
The email read, “I may have something on Randizzle that will help out with the story your [sic] doing.
Please instruct me on how to get you the material.”
From my previous encounter with Bob’s crew, I quickly recognized the porous grammar in “the story your doing.”
Wary, I removed my phone numbers from my normal email signature line before replying to Vanessa F. If my suspicions were correct, I certainly didn’t want Vanessa F. to have my phone numbers. Altering my signature also would be a way to mark these emails in case something went astray.
A few hours later, things went astray.
This article appeared on Bob’s site last Tuesday morning. It concludes with a fabricated back-and-forth exchange with my email signature without my phone numbers.
“So I take it you’re declining the interview?” I tweeted to Bob after the story published. He cursed at me.
My goal of interviewing Incarcerated Bob was apparently dead.
In the end, Incarcerated Bob is a man, who lives by a unique set of ethics in an alternate reality that only he can understand. His worst crimes may very well be manipulating the media to sell picks, like plenty of unscrupulous sports handicapping sites do.
Perhaps this quote from Incarcerated Bob from a recent interview with Barstool New York’s KFC Radio best sums up this man: “I’ve been on Twitter, doing what I do on Twitter. I make a lot of enemies, which is actually good. People don’t understand the method to my madness. They get caught up in it. I’ve got guys, draft experts and all of these ESPN (guys going) ‘Ahhhhh, Incarcerated Bob.’ They get all uptight. Whatever, just keep talking about me.”
Wonder why Bob didn’t want me talking about him?
Note: I initially began reporting on this story for The Linemakers on Sporting News, but my editors and I agreed that it had escalated past content appropriate for that platform.
As a journalist, you never want to become the story, but, in this case, the best way to show how malicious Incarcerated Bob’s crew can be is by telling the story of what happened to me.
I considered pitching the story to other media outlets and having them independently report and write it, but ultimately decided that I didn’t want to subject anyone else to the backlash and harassment that is sure to follow.
I am confident in my reporting and believe this is a story that needs to be told.
If you’d like to help with this cause, please pass along this link or tell the story to members of the media—radio, online, TV and print—as well as any inexperienced sports bettors, so they do not get fooled by Incarcerated Bob and his army of goons.
David Purdum is a professional freelance writer. You can reach him on Twitter @DavidPurdum.