An upcoming six-part HBO documentary is telling the absolutely bonkers story of a former police officer-turned-corporate security auditor who scammed more than $24 million worth of cash and prizes out of McDonald's—and he's almost certainly the reason why your uncle never got that one piece he needed to win big at McDonald's Monopoly. "This story has got everything," the trailer promises. "Revenge, drugs, greed… Ronald McDonald."
McMillions, which is based on a Daily Beast piece by Jeff Maysh, focuses on a mysterious figure named "Uncle Jerry," who managed to get his hands on the winning McDonald's Monopoly game pieces, and then sold them to other people who would cash them in for six-and-seven-figure checks. Uncle Jerry would take a cut of the prize money, the "winner" would make the kind of irrational decisions that people who get an unexpected pile of cash tend to make, and the world—and the Monopoly game—would go on. "From 1989 to 2001, there were almost no legitimate million dollar winners," one McMillions interviewee says.
"Uncle Jerry" was eventually outed as Jerome Jacobsen, a man whose resume was littered with false-starts and missteps, before he ended up overseeing security at Simon Marketing, the company that handled all of McDonald's promotions, which ranged from creating Happy Meal toys to printing the piece for its Monopoly game.
After a series of suspicious winners started claiming prizes, the FBI got involved. As they continued to investigate "Uncle Jerry" Jacobsen, their list of other participants in the scam expanded from eight people to 53 disparate individuals, including a self-described mob associate, a convicted drug trafficker, and a Mormon father of five, his wife, and her sister.
According to Maysh, Jacobsen also anonymously mailed a $1 million winning piece to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Despite being connected to "Uncle Jerry's" scam, McDonald's awarded the full $1 million prize to the hospital.
More than 50 people were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy. (The trial began in a Florida courtroom on September 10, 2001, but by mid-morning the next day, the outcome didn't seem to matter as much anymore.) "All I can tell you is I made the biggest mistake of my life," Jacobsen said during his testimony.
That's probably an accurate statement—but it also makes for a hell of a story. McMillions premieres on HBO on Monday, February 3.