I first heard about the McDonald’s Monopoly fraud in The Daily Beast in 2019:
Jerome Jacobson and his network of mobsters, psychics, strip club owners, and drug traffickers won almost every prize for 12 years until the FBI launched Operation ‘Final Answer.’
How did I not remember this?! It had been big news!
The article read like a movie script as there are so many twists and turns. I knew about a third of the way through that someone would buy the movie rights. Sure enough … two days after the initial story broke, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon bought the movie rights.
You can imagine my surprise when I heard HBO was airing a show called McMillion$. It was filmed as a 6-part documentary with interviews with most of the people involved, re-enactments of events, clips of old commercial footage, and ads.
I was right. It is a MUST WATCH series.
I did not watch it live each week. I recorded the whole thing and watched two episodes at a time. I am glad I did that. It seemed even crazier than the original article, as astonishing as that may sound. I believe it’s because we got to see the FBI unravel the entire scheme thread by thread. They did an excellent job of building one piece on the next and then one episode on the other.
Slowly but surely, we got to meet many of the players—some via old footage and most in current-day interviews. What is impressive is the variety of people involved. If I had written this story out as a movie, no one would have bought it, saying it wasn’t realistic. No one would believe it. It seems too far fetched. The adage truth is stranger than fiction applies here.
The first person we meet is FBI Agent Doug Mathews. I want to know is; how he isn’t a game show host or the CEO of a marketing company?! He has so much energy. It’s why he was the perfect person to lead the charge of this investigation. Agent Mathews isn’t your stereotypical FBI agent. When dealing with the suspects, they would never suspect he was the law.
Sadly, we never meet the elusive center of the entire scheme Jerry Jacobson. He is only shown in archived footage. We do meet some of the people he recruited, such as Jerry Columbo and AJ Glumb, along with their relatives and friends, and it spirals out from there.
To me it feels like a Quinten Tarantino movie as there is every personality type you can imagine; the hero, the law, the attorney, the petty criminal, the distraught wife, the ex-wife, the mobster, the innocent children, the businessman, the single mom, the best friend, the sponsor, etc.
We were glued to the TV as each new scene unfolded another aspect of the fraud. There were so many layers that it was almost hard to keep track.
If you have not seen the documentary, the Cliffs Notes version is; Jerry Jacobson, a man who was always looking for a shortcut in life, saw an opportunity to cheat the system, couple that with an extraordinary stroke of luck, and you have a recipe for fraud.
A Screen Rant article acknowledges what I noticed right away. The documentary never discussed WHY Jerry felt he could get away with fraud.
Jerry witnesses two Simon Marketing executives, re-draw potential winning regions as they did not want any Canadian winners. Right then, he felt the sweepstakes was rigged, so he took advantage of his position.
After the fraud was uncovered, the sweepstakes was revamped and in 2012, Canadian Bob Curle bought a large coffee in Selkirk, Manitoba and instantly won $1M. Since 2015, McDonald’s Canada began running its own separate Monopoly contest.
Also, Jerry couldn’t do it alone. He reached out to people who he knew didn’t always ‘follow the rules’. As the scam continued, even those many would view as moral participated attempting to better their circumstances. We should never pass judgment as I realized how easily any of us could have been in their shoes, and making the choice to try and take a shortcut in life.
The big moment for me was in Episode 6 when the Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux talked about charging those involved, how the ‘winners’ did not follow the official rules, and therefore committed fraud. I just about jumped off the couch as my #1 tip for entrants and marketers is two sides of the same coin. Always read the rules for the entrants and always ensure you have airtight rules for the marketers. The official rules are a legal and binding contract between the entrant and the sponsor and should stand up in a court of law. That is precisely what was shown in this case.
I was shocked at the ending too. No spoiler alerts here. I won’t tell you who the informant was that started the ball rolling, but it’s astonishing to see how one person’s intentions to hurt one other person can snowball and, in the end, affect thousands around the world. Remember that if you ever want to take any type of action out of anger. You do not know how your actions could affect others and how or where it will ripple out.
Can’t get enough?
Read more articles:
- How One McDonald’s Employee Took Down a $24M Scam
- ‘McMillions’ details the odd personalities behind the McDonald’s Monopoly scam
- McMillions: The Stranger-Than-Fiction Story of the $24-Million McDonald’s Monopoly Theft
- Or just Google “McMilions” and see what you get!
Listen to podcast interviews:
Did you watch McMillion$?