Fans of the Big Mac may end up lovin’ this truly bizarre story of fast-food fraud. The new HBO docuseries McMillions tells the stranger than fiction tale of the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam. It’s the kind of super-sized corruption story you couldn’t make up if you tried. “This story has got everything,” as those interviewed in the trailer point out, “revenge, drugs, greed, Ronald McDonald.”
It all starts with an ex-cop named Jerry Jacobson who rigged the game for over a decade. Jacobson, who went by the nickname “Uncle Jerry,” made off with millions of dollars between 1989 and 2001. So how did this real-life Hamburglar do it?
McDonald’s promotional Monopoly game allowed customers to collect game pieces in exchange for prizes ranging from a free small fries to $1 million. Jacobson was able to gain early access to the pieces since he worked as director of security at Simon Marketing, the company that produced them. Jacobson would then hand the pieces off to “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,” according to a 2018 Daily Beast story. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are also reportedly working on a movie based on the McDonald's scam.
The six-part docuseries includes first-hand accounts from those connected to the scam. It shows how the FBI assumed it was a “BS story” and how most of those who got caught up in the scam were “good people” in need of cash whose lives were ultimately ruined by it. “You can get away with something over and over and over,” a victim of the fraud said in the trailer. “You only gotta be caught once.”
In the end, 50 people were convicted of mail fraud and corruption. Jacobson was sentenced to 37 months in jail.
McMillions premieres on HBO February 3.