If you took part in the popular McDonald's Monopoly prize contest through the 1990s and cursed your bad luck for never winning a thing, a fascinating story in the Daily Beast is here to explain why. The short version: It was rigged. The story by Jeff Maysh explains how an ex-cop named Jerome Jacobson worked as head of security for the company behind the contest, Simon Marketing, and he got his hands on pretty much every winning prize piece from 1989 until 2001. "Uncle Jerry" made himself rich, along with family members and an ever-growing list of colorful associates, until a tip to the FBI led to a sting operation that brought down the enterprise. The scheme was simple in one sense: Jacobson would hand over a winning prize piece, then collect a cut of the prize money.
"Jacobson was the head of 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," writes Maysh. The path down this slippery slope began in 1989, when Jacobson gave his step-brother a $25,000 game piece—and got away with it. Then his local butcher learned what Jacobson's job was and said he'd love to win a prize. In their resulting scheme, Jacobson forked over a $10,000 piece and collected $2,000 for himself. Things escalated in Hollywood-esque fashion from there over the next decade, with a reputed member of the Colombo crime family becoming a key figure. Jacobson, who was convicted along with about 50 others, ended up serving a reduced 37-month sentence in exchange for testimony. Click to read the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)