- 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 $US24 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’sMonopoly 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 $US24 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 set up a scheme to provide winning McDonald’s Monopoly pieces in exchange for a cut of the money, the report said, adding that his network won nearly every game for 12 years. The Daily Beast said most of Jacobson’s account in the report came from court documents.
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 $US1 million.
Here’s how Jacobson pulled it off, according to The Daily Beast:
- Jacobson was a director of security at an agency that worked with McDonald’s, in charge of overseeing the printing of the game pieces for the Monopoly promotion.
- Jacobson was responsible for taking out the high-value game pieces, putting them into envelopes, and sealing the corners with tamper-proof metallic stickers. He then transported them from the production presses to the packaging factories using a secret vest he created. This process was overseen by an independent auditor.
- He first breached the system in 1989, when he gave a game piece worth $US25,000 to his stepbrother.
- Word spread about his job. Jacobson’s local butcher in Atlanta approached him about it, but Jacobson said it would be too suspicious to give him the prize because they were friends and neighbours. The butcher suggested a way around this, saying he would find a distant friend to claim the money and give Jacobson a cut in return.
- Several years later, Jacobson received a package in error from a supplier in Hong Kong that contained anti-tamper seals for the game-piece envelopes. He used these seals to steal game pieces on his way to the factories around the United States.
- Jacobson later said he was monitored throughout this process by a female auditor and that the only way he could stop her from seeing what he was doing was by going to a men’s bathroom to replace winning game pieces with standard ones and put a new seal on the envelope.
- In 1995, the scheme gained momentum when Jacobson met a man named Gennaro Colombo while waiting for a flight. Colombo, who claimed to be a member of New York’s 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 winning pieces.
- If any of these winners were connected or lived close to one another, they would travel to different states to collect the prize or give addresses of their family members to make it seem more realistic.
- In 1998, Colombo died in a car crash, and Jacobson went looking for new accomplices to expand his network.
- These accomplices included shady characters like former drug traffickers.
- Recruiting people at random to help with the scheme reduced the risk of any paper trail leading back to Jacobson.
- In 2000, the FBI received an anonymous tip that the latest $US1 million winner was a fraud, and the agency launched an investigation.
- 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 $US12.5 million in restitution.
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