Back in the day, the McDonald’s Monopoly game had millions of people peeling red stickers off their food and drinks. Most of the stickers were for free food, drinks, or property pieces, but there was still the far-fetched hope of winning the big million-dollar prize. Everyone joked about the game being a big scam, but it turns out that there was a real scandal behind the fast-food game. Upcoming HBO series McMillions will explore the bizarre real-life investigation that involved the FBI.
Mark Whalberg is executive producing the six-part documentary series, which will debut on February 3. In the meantime, HBO has released an official synopsis alongside a trailer to bring viewers up to speed on what to expect. According to McMillions’ website, an ex-cop who later became a security auditor rigged the game. The FBI was informed of the activity, which they didn’t take seriously at first, but it was soon discovered that winning pieces (aka millions of dollars) were being stolen and sold to people.
The trailer reveals that all the winners were tied to an “Uncle Jerry.” McDonald’s was apparently shocked at the ongoing scammery among a network of co-conspirators across the United States. As the investigation got deeper, things got even stranger with more people being tied into the drama, mounting lies, and apparently a tie in with drugs and revenge.
It certainly sounds like a creative tale, but it’s the truth. The Daily Beast reported that 50 people, including Jerome Jacobson, were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy in 2001. Jacobson was an employee for Simon Marketing, a specialty printing company that worked with McDonalds in the ‘80s and ‘90s. A staggering $24 million dollars was in question and a trail of evidence pinpoints the McMillions‘ story origins to 1989.
He apparently took his first game piece then and gave it to a relative, eventually getting his family and friends to recruit others into the circuit. He would get a cut of the winnings and regular people would get to be richer than they were the previous day. Wait, what?!
How did most of us miss this story? Well, the trial started on September 10, 2001—one day before 9/11 changed all of our lives forever. So the last thing most people paid attention to was a fast food fraud case. But, The Los Angeles Times reported in 2003 that Jacobson was sentenced to three years and one month in federal prison for this crimes.
McMillions features interviews and commentary from a wide variety of people connected to the scandal. There are FBI agents who were a part of the investigation, lawyers, prizewinners who profited from this network, and people duped into becoming a part of this shifty network. It will be interesting to hear from the people who were willingly (and unwillingly) in cahoots with Uncle Jerry. The description doesn’t make it clear if Jacobson will be involved in the documentary but perhaps there will be an update on what he is doing now.
How odd will this story get? You’ll have to tune into McMillions to find out.
Featured Image Credit: HBO