Sarah Phillips, who freelanced a weekly betting column for ESPN’s Playbook, used the ESPN connection to convince people it was legit, including this guy:

Just as Matt became certain he was dealing with a scammer and prepared to cut ties with her, Phillips received some news of her own: She was going to work for ESPN.

Matt was stupefied. Maybe the person he figured for a con artist wasn’t actually a con artist? In any case, he didn’t want to be on bad terms with someone at ESPN.

Within a few weeks, their conversation once again turned to money. He gave her another $2,000.

“By the third payment I was completely fucked in the head,” he said in an email. “She was harassing me everyday. She claimed that because of my actions (contacting another member of Covers who was betting against her) that her life was threatened and she lost thousands of dollars in business from other bettors. While her many other requests for money were ludicrous and went ignored, I could honestly see my part in this particular situation, even though she was manipulating me. So I thought it was the right thing to do at the time, and being that we were still talking business together and she just landed a gig at ESPN, I wanted to remain on good terms. I was still half blind and didn’t know what was really going on behind the scenes”

That’s a big editorial failure by ESPN, as Koblin makes clear by noting the questions readers already had about Phillips’s true identity.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at