Between 1989 and 2001, a man ran a fraud scheme against McDonald’s monopoly game, duping the fast-food company of $24 million in fake/illegal winnings.
The story clearly looks picturesque to inspire a Hollywood movie.
While the trial of this fraud started in Jacksonville on September 10, 2001, its deserved headline got shunned away by the horrific incident of 9/11. So, the case got shoveled in without getting as much attention from the news media as it should…
HBO’s new docuseries “McMillions” brings this McDonald’s monopoly fraud to life. Directed by Brian Lazarte and James Lee Hernandez, the series is already wooing the critics. Check out the trailer here:
Now coming to what exactly is McDonald’s monopoly fraud or McMillions monopoly scheme, as it is known today.
So basically, McDonald’s started a contest (monopoly promotion) in 1987 with help from Simon Marketing, which designed the entire promotion. The game was simple – people would have to collect tiny peel-off pieces that were found on the packaging of menu items and print ads of McDonald’s. These monopoly properties could later be redeemed for prizes, from vacations to millions of dollars.
(Courtesy: The Guardian)
Now McDonald’s and Simon Marketing hired Dittler Brothers printing to make these monopoly pieces that would contain big cash prizes. Dittler Brothers took many stringent measures to ensure complete privacy/safety to these pieces. After printing and safekeeping, these pieces used to be taken to MacDonald's factory and placed randomly on a soda cup and Big Mac package.
Sadly, the person who was responsible to take this high-value monopoly piece was Jerry Jacobson, the mastermind behind McMillions monopoly scheme. Jerry Jacobson was a police officer in Hollywood, Fla. He then went into private security work. From there he eventually landed a job at Dittler Brothers, the company that McDonald’s and Simon Marketing hired to make monopoly pieces. Jacobson was responsible to watch the high-value winning monopoly pieces of McDonald’s get printed. He would lock them in a vault, seal them up, and carry them to the factory to hide these pieces in McDonald’s packaging. Clearly, he had a lot of power here, and he certainly started exploiting them.
He started giving the prize-winning monopoly pieces to people he knew for commission. For instance, he gave his local butcher a stolen piece worth $10,000; the butcher paid him $2,000. Over the years, he expanded his fraud by adding more conspirators in the plan and making moves on bigger amounts.
During delivery of the package to the factory of McDonald’s, Jacobson would go to airport bathrooms, remove the original seal of the envelope, swap the winning pieces for regular ones, secure back the envelope with a newer seal, and make the final delivery. He would take the high-value monopoly piece and give it to others. To avoid suspicion, these “others” would lie about being from different parts of the country. This is how this whole McMillions monopoly scheme continued between 1989 and 2001. Jerry Jacobson made $24 million in this fraud.
But, of course, this had to end somewhere. And so it did.
(Courtesy: New York Post)
In 2000, the FBI received an anonymous tip-off. Someone informed them that a person is rigging McDonald’s monopoly promotion, stealing the monopoly pieces and selling them. Special Agent Richard Dent pursued this case. He investigated and found links between the winners. The odds of hitting the jackpot were one in 250 million. So, the odds of three winners to be connected to each other was virtuallyimpossible. This raised a red sign. The FBI eventually napped Jerry Jacobson, along with seven other people on August 22, 2001, in an operation called “Final Answer”. In total, 51 people were indicted in the case, largely on fraud and conspiracy charges. Jerry Jacobson was pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 3+ years in prison; he was also ordered to pay $12.5 million in reimbursement.
As mentioned, this whole McDonald’s monopoly fraud didn't receive as much media attention as it should owing to/11.
McDonald’s image was hurt too. To make up for the bad publicity, McDonald’s gave away $25 million in prizes.
HBO’s documentary series McMillions tells this same story. It depicts all the twists and turns of the events, including all those people who got involved in this scheme with Jerry Jackson.
It’s just a matter of time now before Hollywood picks the story and makes a motion picture on this McMillions monopoly scheme.