McDonald’s Monopoly game gave customers a chance to become an overnight millionaire. Admittedly, the chances of winning the big prize were extremely low with many aspects of the game set in favor of the fast-food behemoth. But one man, Jerry Jacobson, rigged the game for friends and family for 12 years until he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
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Jacobson started out as a police officer in Florida in 1980 until he hurt his wrist and was let go. Not knowing what to do next, Jacobson went from job to job until his wife helped him secure a job at Simon Marketing, the company responsible for printing the McDonald’s Monopoly pieces.
Throughout the rest of that year, Jacobson rose through the ranks at work and was placed in charge of the production of the game pieces. It didn’t take long for Jacobson to realize he could rig the system by taking certain high-end pieces for himself and his family. He tested his theory when he sent a $10,000 prize piece to his brother in Florida.
When his brother was successful in obtaining the prize money, Jacobson knew his plan would work. By taking a small percentage of the guaranteed winnings, he could easily make a boatload of cash in a short amount of time.
Jacobson was already living a lavish lifestyle as he was making around $70,000 yearly at his job, which, in the 90s, was good money. Consumed by his greed, though, Jacobson quickly set out to make even more money by recruiting some of his friends and family into his scheme.
Jacobson was always careful not to use his real name with the people he didn’t know well. He would refer to himself as “Uncle Jerry,” Ranker reported. For the next 12 years, Jacobson would give his friends and family various winning game pieces with some exceeding $1 million in prizes.
It was a simple plan; his co-conspirators would give him 10 percent of the winnings upfront before Jacobson would hand over the winning piece. This would often exceed $50,000 which many of these people did not have just lying around. Instead, people would mortgage their homes to pay Jacobson for a winning game piece.
It wasn’t uncommon for Jacobson to make $45,000 a day with his simple scheme. Ironically, Jacobson and his friends all lived in Florida. Nobody ever questioned why people in Florida would constantly win these extravagant prizes from the fast-food game.
In 2000, the FBI received an anonymous tip that the most recent winner of $1 million may have won through suspicious means. The FBI then devised a plan called “Final Answer.”
This consisted of tapping Jacobson’s phone, and it didn’t take long for the FBI to find out how intricate this scam was. In fact, the FBI was astonished by how large of an operation Jacobson and his accomplices were running.
Executives at McDonald’s thought this would bring bad publicity and notoriety to the fast-food chains game so they were less than enthused by the FBI’s investigation. Not deterred, the FBI continued its investigation into Jacobson.
When they heard information about the next winner from the tapped phone, the FBI quickly sprung into action by dressing as a camera crew and interviewing the so-called winner. Michael Hoover, who was visibly nervous, gave his interview.
The FBI arrested Jacobson and his co-conspirators 19 days after the interview was conducted.
A trial was set to begin and would have surely been major news. Sadly, though, the trail started the day before the tragedy of 9/11, which understandably overshadowed the rigged McDonald’s game.
Jacobson received 15 years in prison after he testified against his old crew. Over 50 of his associates were arrested, with some of the top “winners” being sentenced to one year in jail. The other lower-level individuals were only subject to hefty fines, the DailyBeast reported.
Jacobson, who once lived the high life, now lives in a small home in Georgia after serving his sentence. The government seized all of his assets and left him essentially penniless.
This just goes to show that more often than not, crime doesn’t pay.