8 Charged in McDonald's Promo Swindle

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Federal authorities have charged eight people with stealing $13 million in prizes by fixing the outcome of popular promotional games for fast-food franchiser McDonald's Corp.


Among those arrested is Jerome Jacobson, an employee of Simon Marketing Inc., Oakbrook Terrace, IL, who is accused of stealing McDonald's game pieces from his employer. Jacobson, who worked at the promotions marketing firm's Lawrenceville, GA, security office, is accused of giving the pieces to his associates, who recruited others to claim the prizes illicitly, according to the charges.


The conspirators stole prizes from McDonald's long-standing Monopoly game and the popular Who Wants to be a Millionaire game, among others, authorities said. In July, McDonald's launched an extensive campaign to market the 10th anniversary of the Monopoly game involving online advertising and direct mail, in addition to broadcast media.


The scheme has been going on since 1995, according to the FBI, which dubbed its investigation Operation Final Answer. In that time, the eight people charged, who hail from Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas, are alleged to have stolen some of the highest-value prizes available in the promotions, between $500,000 and $1 million each.


Each was charged with felony complaints of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 in fines in addition to court-ordered restitution. No employees of McDonald's were charged in the alleged scheme.


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