“From 1989 to 2001, there were almost no legitimate winners of the high-value game pieces in the McDonald’s Monopoly game. I mean, how crazy-bullsh*t is that?”
That’s FBI Special Agent Doug Mathews’s assessment of the $24 million fraud scheme that’s the focus of HBO’s new documentary McMillion$. Blending elements of the Ocean’s films, Argo, and Donnie Brasco, the six-part saga, directed by James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte, involves a complicated scam, inept Florida men, Italian mobsters, very real housewives, Mormons, drug dealers, strip clubs, wiretaps, and a zany sting operation run by a hyperactive G-man.
For more than a decade, former cop Jerome Jacobson found a way to rig the McDonald’s Monopoly game to his advantage – and the general public had no idea. Now, HBO is ready to tell the tale with McMillions. Here’s the synopsis:
This documentary series chronicles the stranger-than-fiction story of an ex-cop turned security auditor who rigged the McDonald’s Monopoly game promotion for a decade, stealing millions of dollars and building a vast network of co-conspirators across the U.S. The series draws on exclusive firsthand accounts and archival footage, featuring: the FBI agents who brought down the gaming scam; McDonald’s corporate executives, who were themselves defrauded; the lawyers who tried the case; and the culprits and prizewinners who profited from the complicated scheme, as well as the individuals who were often unwittingly duped into being a part of the ruse.
Per Wikipedia, “Jacobson’s associates won almost all of the top prizes including cash and cars between 1995 and 2000, including McDonald’s giveaways that did not have the Monopoly theme. The associates netted over $24 million. While the fraud appeared to have been perpetrated by only one key employee of the promotion company, and not by the company’s management, eight people were originally arrested, leading to a total of 21 indicted individuals with members of the Colombo Mafia family believed to have been involved in the fraud at some point.”
How did this happen and how did the FBI investigate the scam? That’s the story McMillion$ tells, starting from the Jacksonville Florida FBI office that began the investigation. It’s a brilliant and mesmerizing series because it puts you in the FBI agents’ point of view, slowly discovering the extent of the fraud after following up on an anonymous tip that several Monopoly winners were related.
From there the series assembles a compelling cast of characters, from overly confident young FBI agent Matthews, to Mafia wife Robin Colombo and even the enigmatic man behind the scheme, “Uncle Jerry,” aka Jerome Jacobsen. The series mixes archival footage, including actual video from FBI stings, reenactment and interviews to take you on this bizarre journey and it’s incredibly fun in doing so.