McMillions: The Stranger-Than-Fiction Story of McDonald’s $ 24 Million Monopoly Theft

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Remember the hugely popular McDonald’s Monopoly game from the 1990s, with chunks you’d peel from drink cups, the one that could potentially get you free $ 1 million fries? Well, there’s a reason why you, your friends, and most Americans never won big, even outside of the game’s inherently unfavorable odds. Between 1989 and 2001, a former cop nicknamed “Uncle Jerry” stole many expensive stickers and, with the help of a large criminal network, played the golden arches on $ 24 million.

Uncle Jerry’s sensational 12-year plan is the subject of James lee hernandez and that of Brian Lazarte HBO Docuseries McMillions, which premiered on Monday. Hernandez, who was obsessed with McDonald’s Monopoly game as a child, stumbled across the story late that night in 2012 while trolling Reddit. He searched the internet for more information, but infuriatingly found only a short blurb on the crime in a Jacksonville, Florida newspaper. There was a good reason, however, for the story to slip under the radar: the trial began on September 10, 2001 and was understandably overshadowed by the terrorist attacks the next day.

Hernandez filed an Freedom of Information request with the Justice Department and the FBI in 2013 and was given the green light three years later to contact the actors involved. (The daily beast published his own story on the case in 2018.) The filmmakers convinced McDonald’s and some of the key figures to participate. Putting together this sprawling and intricate scheme, Hernandez and Lazarte put together what they jokingly called a “Nice spirit“Like” information room, with a real chain connecting the players and the subplots. In a nutshell, this is what happened:

“Uncle Jerry” was Jérôme Jacobson, a former cop who oversaw security at Simon Marketing, the company that ran McDonald’s promotions, especially the Monopoly game pieces. Jerry handled the winning game coins, and from 1989 began accepting money from people who had heard word of mouth about his Monopoly hookup in exchange for key coins. He covered his footsteps well for about a decade, dealing with many people in person and convincing them to pass the pieces on to out-of-state friends or distant relatives with different names to hide any potential connection between the winners.

His plan expanded considerably after he teamed up with a few unsavory characters who acted as buffers – one with alleged links to the mob – and found “winners” willing to pay Jerry bribes. -substantial wine. Jerry and his wife are said to have bought a lakeside property, splurged on cruising, and assembled an enviable collection of vintage cars.

But in 2000, the FBI received an anonymous tip about an “Uncle Jerry” rigging the McDonald’s contest. The organization launched an investigation that would uncover the fact that many of the winners, despite the out-of-state addresses they listed, actually lived within a 25-mile radius of the lakefront home that they owned. Jacobson. According to Beast of the day, “25 agents across the country … tracked 20,000 phone numbers and recorded 235 tapes of phone calls.” McDonald’s even sent an undercover employee to help the FBI set up a fake TV ad campaign …Argo-style – to trick fraudulent winners into incriminating themselves on camera. There were raids. And in 2001, in a scene tailored for the third act of an action thriller, McDonald’s released another Monopoly game, knowing their game had been compromised because the FBI needed more proof.

When Jerry was finally caught, according to the Beast of the day, he “admitted to stealing as many as 60 game coins over a dozen years, totaling over $ 24 million in prizes.” He agreed to pay $ 12.5 million in restitution and was sent to jail for 37 months. According to New York Times, Jerry, who is now 70, still lives in Georgia.

If Jerry made a critical error, Lazarte said Vanity Show by phone Monday is that he did not know when to stop. “The greed part is the worst part or what made it,” Hernandez added. “If he had only done it for five years, he would never have been caught. But keep going year after year after year after year … there’s just a good chance the house will always win.

Hernandez and Lazarte said many FBI agents they spoke to remembered the McDonald’s monopoly investigation, which is taking place McMillions‘six games — as the most exciting of their careers. They weren’t just sifting through bank statements and tax records, Hernandez explained. “They must have investigated both as a white collar case and a drug case because they had one specific thing that they were tracking and watching happen. They were able to use so many different creative investigative techniques and combine them all to get the evidence they needed to get the convictions, or at least to be able to indict all of these people. “

Ultimately, more than 50 people involved in the scheme were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy. But Hernandez and Lazarte said they felt sympathy for some of the people they interviewed, some of whom were struggling to support their families financially.

“Who wouldn’t claim a coin if a friend or family member came to you and said, ‘I have a foolproof way for you to make $ 1 million.’ All you have to do is say you took it off? Said Lazarte. “And what we discovered throughout this process was everyone who claimed this piece and came forward, this action had incredible consequences that not only affected them when they were arrested, but them. currently affect to date. “

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