Over 12 years, a former police officer and his network won nearly every prize... until the FBI got involved
In 1987, McDonald's started running a Monopoly game wherein customers collected "game pieces" attached to French fry cartons, to-go cups, and paper ads to win everything from a free Filet-O-Fish sandwich to a car to the grand prize of $1 million. The country was obsessed. But, it turns out, the game was completely rigged.
A new report from The Daily Beast by Jeff Maysh details the wild story of how the most famous McDonald's marketing ploy went bust. It all started with an ex-cop named Jerome Paul Jacobson. After an illness that cut his career as a police officer short, Jacobson climbed the ranks in private security, eventually overseeing production for Dittler Brothers, a company that printed the half-billion paper game pieces for the biannual game. "It was Jacobson who personally scissored out the high-value game pieces and slipped them into envelopes, before sealing each corner with a tamper-proof metallic sticker," Maysh writes. "In a secret vest, of his invention, Jacobson transported the winning pieces to McDonald’s packaging factories across the country."
As the person probably most familiar with McDonald's anti-theft efforts when it came to Monopoly, it seems Jacobson couldn't help but consider how to use this knowledge for his own person gain. In 1989, "Jacobson slipped his step-brother... a game piece worth $25,000." Shortly after, Jacobson's butcher heard about his connection to McDonald's Monopoly and asked how possible it would be to win a $10,000 prize. When Jacobson worried about their relationship being too easy to trace, the butcher offered to find a distant friend to claim the prize and then give Jacobson a $2,000 cut. The scheme was born.
For years, Jacobson's web of associates grew, as did the amount of money people "won." But in 2000, an informant tipped off the FBI that someone had rigged the game, and Special Agent Richard Dent began collecting evidence.
Finally, in 2000, "after installing a wiretap on Jacobson’s phone, [Dent] realized that his tip had led to a super-sized conspiracy. Jacobson was the head of a sprawling network of mobsters, psychics, strip club owners, convicts, drug traffickers, and even a family of Mormons, who had falsely claimed more than $24 million in cash and prizes."
In 2001, "More than 50 defendants were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy." Many have served jail time, and many more are still paying back the prize money they stole.
In other words, they did not pass "Go," and, ultimately, they did not collect $200.
Read the whole insane story over at The Daily Beast.