A former cop masterminded a scheme to win nearly $24 million in the McDonald's Monopoly game. Here's how he pulled it off.
- In 2001, more than 50 people were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy in connection with a scheme to defraud McDonald's out of more than $24 million through its Monopoly promotion, The Daily Beast reported over the weekend.
- Jerry Jacobson, a former police officer, was found to be at the heart of a complicated scheme that spanned over a decade.
- Jacobson was accused of providing winning McDonald's Monopoly pieces in exchange for a cut of the money.
- Here's how the scheme worked.
In 2001, more than 50 people were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy in connection with a scheme to defraud McDonald's out of more than $24 million through its Monopoly promotion, The Daily Beast's Jeff Maysh reported over the weekend.
Jerry Jacobson, a former police officer, was found to be at the heart of the complicated fraud after he reportedly set up a scheme to provide winning McDonald's Monopoly pieces in exchange for a cut of the money, according to court records. His network won nearly every game for 12 years.
Launched in 1987, McDonald's Monopoly game is one of the fast-food chain's longest-running marketing promotions. Customers collect the Monopoly game pieces and tokens attached to McDonald's packaging for a chance to win up to $1 million.
Here's how Jacobson pulled it off, according to The Daily Beast:
- Jacobson was director of security at an agency that worked with McDonald's. He was in charge of overseeing the printing of McDonald's game pieces for the Monopoly promotion.
- Jacobson was responsible for taking out the high-value game pieces, putting them into envelopes and sealing each corner with a tamper-proof metallic sticker. He then transported them from the production presses to the packaging factories using a secret vest he had created. This process was overseen by an independent auditor.
- He first breached the system in 1989, when he gave a game piece worth $25,000 to his stepbrother, according to court records.
- Word spread about his job, but Jacobson said it would be too suspicious to hand out prizes to family and friends. It was his local butcher in Atlanta who suggested a way around this. He said he would find a distant friend to claim the money and give Jacobson a cut in return.
- Several years later, Jacobson received a package from a supplier in Hong Kong in error, and it contained anti-tamper seals for the game piece envelopes. He allegedly used these seals to steal game pieces on his way to the factories around the United States.
- Jacobson later said in court that he was monitored throughout this process by a female auditor. The only way he could stop her from seeing what he was doing was by going to the men's bathroom before they arrived at the factory, replacing winning game pieces with standard pieces, and putting a new seal on the envelope.
YouTube/ Keith Richardson
- In 1995, the scheme gained momentum when Jacobson met a man called Gennaro Colombo while waiting for a flight. Colombo, who claimed he was a member of New York's infamous Colombo crime family, said he wanted in on the scheme.
- Colombo connected Jacobson with different people around the US who would pay him cash for the prize money.
- If any of these future winners were connected or lived close to each other, they would travel to different states to collect the prize or give the addresses of their family members to make it seem more realistic.
- By recruiting people at random, it reduced the risk of any paper trail leading back to Jacobson.
- In 1998, Colombo tragically died in a car accident. Jacobson went looking for new accomplices to expand his network.
- These accomplices reportedly included shady characters like former drug traffickers.
- In 2000, the FBI received an anonymous tip that the most recent $1 million winner was a fraud, and an investigation was launched.
- In September 2001, more than 50 people were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy. Jacobson was arrested, sentenced to three years in prison, and forced to pay back $12.5 million in restitution.
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