The truth about the multi-million dollar McDonald's Monopoly scam

It's a series of events drenched in intrigue and deception, greed and subterfuge. It is the tale of America's most iconic eatery getting taken for a multi-million dollar ride. And more than anything, it's a story that will have you asking "if you can't trust a disgraced cop, some psychics, and a group of mobsters, who can you trust?" Over the course of 12 years, this epic yarn of theft and betrayal led to death and prison time and tore families apart.

And like most stories about families being torn apart, it all starts with Monopoly.

A huge McStake

For a hot minute in the '80s and '90s, former police officer Jerome Jacobson was a great guy to be tangentially acquainted with, since folks who crossed paths with him had a crazy habit of winning the McDonald's Monopoly sweepstakes. First, his step-brother won $25,000 in 1989. In 1995, his new pal Jerry Colombo got hooked up with a flashy new sports car courtesy of the Golden Arches. Then Jerry's friends and colleagues started winning big, with friends-of-friends, bookies, and personal psychic mediums all taking home big prizes. It was a crazy coincidence which may or may not have had anything to do with how Jerome worked for the security firm tasked with the creation and distribution of the McDonald's Monopoly game pieces.

Per an expose published by The Daily Beast in 2018, Jacobson swindled McDonald's out of more than $24 million over twelve years, obtaining and shelling out every high-end game piece he could obtain in exchange for a cut of the winnings. The operation went from a passion project to a nationwide conspiracy after he buddied up with Jerry, a self-proclaimed member of the Colombo crime family. Together, they created a network of winners, often sending people on cross-country trips so that the prize recipients wouldn't be lumped too closely together.

How did he do it? As with any con on this sort of scale, it took a carefully planned heist with precision timing and a team of experts and no ... we're kidding. As we mentioned, Jerome worked for the company that made the Monopoly game pieces, so he would sneak the winning tickets into the bathroom and then smuggle them out on his way home.

The whole thing fell apart in 2000 when the FBI got an anonymous tip and initiated the wildly overdramatic "Operation Final Answer." In August of 2001, more than 50 people were arrested and charged with mail fraud. Jerome wound up sentenced to three years in prison, did not pass go, and did not collect $200.