Is the Four Play Football Million Dollar Prize Story a Scam?

By Jeff Moss
February 7, 2017

Last Thursday, a few days before Super Bowl LI, WXYZ-7 aired a segment regarding a Royal Oak man who was on the verge of winning a million-dollar prize through a Birmingham-based phone app called “Four Play Football.”

After 17 weeks of regular season picks and three rounds of playoffs (we will get to the rules of the game in a moment), 39-year-old Dominic Mirabella only needed to select the winner between New England and Atlanta against the spread on Sunday.

Mirabella picked the Patriots giving three points — presuming they were using the Vegas line — and allegedly won the million-dollar prize when Tom Brady and company pulled off their miraculous comeback Sunday evening.

The Detroit News picked up the story and ran an article about Mirabella’s incredible run of picking 81 straight games on Monday morning. Now, before we go any further, I need to clarify a couple of things.

The app has an obstacle course set up for any person trying to win the seven-figure prize. You don’t have to pick 81 winners against the spread or even heads-up. The odds of either occurring are comparable to the sun imploding later this afternoon. Or to Doug Karsch making a salient point about the NHL.

No, the rules are as follows:

“Picking teams against the spread which is padded by 14 points during the regular season, 10 points during early playoff rounds, 6 points during conference championship games and not padded at all for the Super Bowl.”

In other words, for 17 weeks you have to successfully hit a four-team, 14-point teaser every week. Then two four-team, 10-point teasers during Week 1 & 2 of the postseason followed by a two-team, 6-point teaser and then finally a straight up spread beat for the Super Bowl.

Got that? According to Ed Feng of The Power Rank website, the odds of still being alive entering the postseason is 110,592 to 1 even with the generous 14-point buffer.

But according to the folks at the app and Mirabella, he was still alive entering the playoffs. By the way, the alleged winner is a follower of mine on Twitter, although I don’t believe we’ve ever had any interaction.

So Mirabella supposedly wins the million-dollar prize and the News runs a puff piece — by James David Dickson — on Monday morning which basically read as public relations for the app company. Neither Channel 7 nor the Detroit News seemed to do ANY vetting of this AMAZING story. Whether extreme or otherwise.

Of course, the jaded misanthropes (i.e., possessors of common sense) at my website smelled a rat right away. Not to say this story couldn’t be true — even though we are dubious — but there were several red flags that WXYZ and Dickson failed to recognize.

Here is a list of some of the items that have made us skeptical to say the least ….

1] Four Play Football is a new app. This was the first year this gimmick was offered on iPhone and Android devices. But the one thing the developers seem to be good at is getting PR for their venture.

(UPDATE: To be clear, this is the first year the app had any audience whatsoever. The creators have been playing it for years. I would love to see the evidence of how many users Four Play for the 2015 season.)

This is an article the Detroit Press ran about the founders (Jeff Johnson and C.J. Karchon) back on September 17, 2016.

My favorite quote was from Johnson … “I think it’s too easy to raise money for this idea.”

Oh, really?

2] Here is a breakdown of how difficult it would be to win this prize ….

Ok, so not only did someone inconceivably take this jackpot down THE FIRST YEAR this app was available, but a company based in Birmingham’s winner was from Royal Oak. Even though 85% of the app’s participants are not locally based according to the founders.

Not only that, the COMMISSIONER of the “league” Mirabella was in just happened to be C.J. Karchon. Ya know, the co-founder of the app!!!!!

Once again, this all could have occurred but how the hell did WXYZ and the News not dig some more before running this CRAZY story?!??!?

Let’s ask the shitkicker from Las Vegas who informed Ace Rothstein that it was possible for a jackpot slot machine to get hit THREE TIMES in a short period of time ….

3] The company has fewer than 200 Twitter followers. And they barely even mentioned the fact that one of their players was still alive until Super Bowl week. There was basically zero social media mention of Mirabella’s insane run. Hell, this should have started receiving attention during the last two or three weeks of the REGULAR SEASON.

4] Mirabella supposedly didn’t know any of the Four Play people until last week. And he just HAPPENED to run into Johnson last week while eating out in Royal Oak ….

So let’s recap. The commissioner of Mirabella’s league is Karchon and Mirabella just happened to bump into the other co-founder while dining?!??!?!

The episode of Seinfeld where George just happened to find Jerry at the confessional talking to the priest about Tim Whatley’s “Jew jokes”  just called and thinks this is all ridiculous.

5] Mirabella and one of the founders just coincidentally share the same profession …. FINANCIAL ADVISORS.

5] Four Play didn’t insure the million-dollar prize. Even though anyone who has ever been to a golf outing knows that it’s fairly easy to take insurance out on someone getting a hole-in-one and winning a car on a designated hole.

Of course, speaking from experience, when insurance is involved, these sorts of things get investigated. Throughly.

I could actually go on and on rattling off the insane coincidences (one of the founders and Mirabella both attended Rochester schools) and providing you odds that this all actually occurred, but what’s the point?

After my Twitter tirade questioning the authenticity of this story, Bar Stool Sports picked up on this dubious occurrence and questioned the validity of the winnings as well.

I contacted the Detroit News directly with my concerns and then all of a sudden Dickson started updating his story –repeatedly — with questions about the likelihood that this isn’t some sort of scam.

Dickson even asked for evidence from Karchon and Johnson which he has not yet received according to his most recent article update …..

Mirabella also claimed that he didn’t go to Vegas and “hedge” on Atlanta, which, if true, is literally insane behavior. Even with the payment spread over a ten-year period, I am sure Mirabella could have made some arrangements with the app people beforehand to place a $100,000 wager on the Falcons, thereby guaranteeing that picking 80 straight winners didn’t leave him completely EMPTY-HANDED.

Finally, if Four Play hands Mirabella the first check this week for 100k, it really doesn’t prove that there isn’t some sort of scam going on. What if the founders are really pulling the wool over the eyes of their “angel” investors and Mirabella is somehow in on it?

TO BE CLEAR, the DSR isn’t making the claim that this is what went down, I am just explaining why the check wouldn’t be absolute proof that nothing nefarious occurred.

Especially when you consider the following comment from Johnson that reeks just like the Breeders’ Cup Pick-6 scandal from 2002 …

The DSR immediately offered to do something that neither Channel 7 nor the News seemed interested in. If Four Play has nothing to hide, we will have a forensic accountant look at all of their paperwork to make sure this is on the up-and-up.

We will also pay for polygraph tests for Karchon, Johnson or Mirabella if they are willing to subject themselves to a Super Bowl LI(E) detector test. With an expert of our choosing.

Meanwhile, I am trying to get WXYZ and the DetNews to run an article about my crazy weekend …

Updated with my Twitter conversation with Dominic Mirabella after this article was posted …..

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