Monopolizing Monopoly

By Jon Coss, CEO

March 4, 2020

When I was in high school, McDonald’s ran a promotion where they distributed paper Monopoly game pieces to customers who could win prizes if they completed sets of properties.  The prizes ranged from items like free cokes or hamburgers to new cars and a million-dollar cash prize for those lucky enough to complete expensive property sets like Park Place and Boardwalk. 

I remember feeling very badly for my grandmother who kept going back to McDonald’s to try to complete her set, because I knew full-well that there would only be one or two of the pieces she needed distributed throughout the entire country.  I just didn’t have the heart to tell her that she wasn’t simply unlucky to continuously get the same pieces.  Turns out, I should have felt even worse for her than I actually did!

The McDonald’s Monopoly game was actually defrauded by a single individual who “won” literally every large prize over 12 years for a total of $24 million.  That person was a former police officer who worked for the marketing company tasked with overseeing the production and transportation of the game pieces.

Following typical fraud patterns, this fledgling criminal decided to go all out after getting away with giving his stepbrother a $25,000 game piece just to “see if I could do it”.  This first step quickly turned into leveraging a network of mobsters, psychics, strip club owners, and drug traffickers as game piece “winners”.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

This case was actually busted in 2001 with over 50 people arrested, but hardly anyone remembers it because the trial started the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  But now, with the release of the HBO docu-series “McMillions”, and a Disney movie in the works starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, more of us are sure to hear about it.  It took a while, but Grandma, “super-sized” justice was finally served.


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