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Ex-cop rigs McDonald’s Monopoly game, steals over $24 million in prizes

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ELIZABETH BROCKWAY/THE DAILY BEAST

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ELIZABETH BROCKWAY/THE DAILY BEAST

Every year, twice a year since 1987, McDonald’s customers participate in a worldwide game of Monopoly, where drink cups and food packaging contain prize pieces of the legendary Monopoly board. Like the real game, if you collect all the pieces of any given set, you get to reap the benefits. Cash prizes, vacation giveaways, cars, and free food off the McDonald’s menu are just a few prizes participants can win if they collect the correct pieces.

Well that’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.

Though the odds of winning the game’s grand prize of $1 million dollars are just 1 in 250 million, one man organized a major criminal conspiracy to rob the company of $24 million in prizes.

Meet “Uncle Jerry” Jacobson, an ex-police officer and Simon Marketing’s (former) director of security. The same Simon Marketing in charge of producing the game pieces for the public.

After health problems ended his career as a police officer early, he managed to work his way to the top of the food chain at the marketing agency, where he was in charge of the distribution of the winning pieces. He would fly from distribution factory to distribution factory, randomly sliding the cash prizes in pallets of french fry containers and drink cups. For two years, he reportedly kept it clean. He would even keep his employees under a microscope, watching their every move to ensure a fair system. Jacobson reportedly went as far as checking each worker’s shoes when they left each day for stolen game pieces. He kept the winning pieces in a sealed vault, only taking them out when it was time to insert them into the random distribution facilities.

And then he slipped one family member a game piece worth $25,000. And then another $10,000 to a local butcher. From there, a snowball effect, where he became the face of a multi-million dollar crime ring.

After 12 years of fraud, one anonymous tip to the FBI uncovered the countless stolen pieces and prizes, and the juggernaut leader was finally taken down.

Jeff Maysh of the Daily Beast wrote a remarkable piece on the Monopoly scandal, including quotes from Jacobson, family members, and others involved.

One day in 1989, at a family gathering in Miami, Jacobson slipped his step-brother, Marvin Braun, a game piece worth $25,000. “I don’t know if I just wanted to show him I could do something, or bragging,” Jacobson later admitted, but he just needed “to see if I could do it.” When his local butcher in Atlanta heard that Jacobson was in charge of the McDonald’s Monopoly prizes, he said he’d like to win a prize. Jacobson boasted that he could make it happen, but it would look too suspicious because they were friends and neighbors. The butcher offered to find a distant friend to claim a $10,000 prize, and gave Jacobson $2,000 for the stolen ticket. It was easy money.

Jacobson would then dangle larger winning pieces for a greater portion of the winnings in return.

The $1 million winners, for example, passed the first $50,000 installment to Uncle Jerry in cash. Sometimes Uncle Jerry would demand cash up front, requiring winners to mortgage their homes to come up with the money. According to the informant, members of one close-knit family in Jacksonville had claimed three $1 million dollar prizes and a Dodge Viper.

One wiretap on Jacobson’s phone confirmed the news, which eventually led to eight arrests made, including Uncle Jerry himself.

But after installing a wiretap on Jacobson’s phone, he 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.

Nineteen days later, on August 22, 2001, the FBI fanned out and made eight arrests, including Dwight and Linda Baker, John Davis, Andrew Glomb, Michael Hoover, Ronald Hughey, and Brenda Phenis. In a pre-dawn raid, FBI agents surrounded Jacobson’s red-brick home, crept up the garden path and knocked on his door. A shocked Jacobson was taken away in handcuffs and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, his bond set a staggering $1 million. Staff at Simon Marketing were left in disbelief. How could the man who searched their shoes be guilty of theft?

There was no “Get Out Of Jail Free” card for Uncle Jerry. He was sentenced to 37 months in jail and was forced to pay $12.5 million in restitution.

Jacobson took the stand dressed in a blue golf shirt, looking tired and gray. One attorney described him as “a gigantic master criminal,” before he admitted to stealing up to 60 game pieces over a dozen years, totaling over $24 million in prizes. “All I can tell you is I made the biggest mistake of my life,” he said quietly, before agreeing to pay $12.5 million in restitution. The judge sent him to jail for 37 months.

You have to read the entire piece at the Daily Beast here. I promise it will be worth your time.

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Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

14 Comments for Ex-cop rigs McDonald’s Monopoly game, steals over $24 million in prizes



  1. Han
    2:41 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

    Yeah, heard this story a few times over the years. It’s been a few years since they did it here in the US, but they still do it overseas every year.

    Bring it back, McDonalds!



  2. KYJelly
    3:39 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

    This has nothing to do with Kentucky Sports. I’d even give you an out if it has something to do with our state. You write for a sports blog with some KY news stories sprinkled in. Please stay on topic with your posts.



  3. NickPapagiorgio
    3:56 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

    Must be a slow day at KSR if you’re reporting on something that happened 17 years ago and doesn’t have anything to do with the state of Kentucky or UK sports.



  4. BlueSteel
    4:48 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

    What is wrong with you people!!?!! I found it to be a fascinating article! If you don’t have any interest then move on! The 5 seconds it takes you to read the headline is your only “investment”. And last I checked McDonalds is everywhere – including Kentucky… And I’m sure everyone is familiar with this game and 99% have probably participated. It is like you need to be negative just to be negative – oh yeah – from the safety of your electronic device.



    • KYJelly
      10:00 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

      Ever been annoyed by a salesperson? You go in to purchase something and they keep trying to push other stuff on you? I’m just here for UK sports and maybe some other Kentucky related stuff (which is how the site advertises itself) don’t try to push your other stuff on me.

      Quit being defensive for the sake of it instead of looking for the merit in what we are saying. And don’t throw out the “hiding behind your keyboard” line because . . . You’re kindve doing that too.



    • BlueSteel
      12:20 am July 30, 2018 Permalink

      But that’s just it… you do not have to be annoyed by that salesperson – you have the ability to go straight to the item that you want and breeze right by the items that you don’t… without much effort. Push other stuff on you? Why because your eyeballs had to see the headline for 5-7 seconds?

      The merit in what you are saying? I understand the words that are coming out of your keyboard but you are criticizing a post that no one forced you to read. This is not a concert where you have to listen to the warm-up bands before the main attraction. It’s more like a golf tournament… You get to make a decision – sure you can camp out at the hole of your choice and see all the golfers – even the ones that you really don’t like or care about or you can follow your favorite around for the entire round but either way it’s your choice.



  5. J. Did
    4:50 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

    Castrate the felon; lobotomize him; break his legs and back such that he’s both permanently buns-up-kneeling and yet prostrate. Then, deliver him to maximum security prison – for eternal prisoner use.



    • plumloopy
      4:56 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

      You, sir, have some demons.



    • Luether
      11:06 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

      A bit harsh. Just a garden variety Democ Rat doing what Democ Rats do…



    • RealCatsFan
      12:04 pm July 30, 2018 Permalink

      Ha! Luether apparently knows the perpetrator so well that he knows his political persuasion. I have news for ya, Lueth – there are plenty of Republican leaning felons out there as well. And I would venture that a lot of the white collar criminals lean that way.



  6. Headhurts
    7:48 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

    U don’t pass Go and collect $200 u take your wheelbarrow and go directly to jail.



  7. KYJelly
    10:01 pm July 29, 2018 Permalink

    Ever been annoyed by a salesperson? You go in to purchase something and they keep trying to push other stuff on you? I’m just here for UK sports and maybe some other Kentucky related stuff (which is how the site advertises itself) don’t try to push your other stuff on me.

    Quit being defensive for the sake of it instead of looking for the merit in what we are saying. And don’t throw out the “hiding behind your keyboard” line because . . . You’re kindve doing that too.



    • Bluebloodtoo
      3:43 pm July 30, 2018 Permalink

      Quick question… How much do your pay for this ky news service? (Assuming the answer is nothing, or close to nothing) So what’s your leverage to make demands on content?



  8. satcheluk
    10:13 pm July 30, 2018 Permalink

    Snowflake central here.