I'm Jeff Maysh, crime journalist. AMA about my story about how an ex-cop rigged the McDonald's Monopoly game
Hi Reddit! I'm Jeff Maysh, a British-American writer based in LA. I investigate unusual cases of crime, robbery, and fraud. My non-fiction writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, The Guardian, Playboy, the Smithsonian, and many other titles. I've profiled bank robbers, spies, smugglers, con artists, and gangsters, and my article "The Wedding Sting," about a fake wedding thrown by undercover Michigan cops, is currently in development with Paramount Pictures. Eight of my articles have been "optioned" by Hollywood studios including Netflix and Fox. My writing has been anthologized in The Atlantic’s “100 Exceptional Works of Journalism” and “Best American Sports Writing 2017.”
Most recently, I wrote this long-form story for The Daily Beast about how an ex-cop living in Atlanta managed to rig McDonald's insanely popular Monopoly game, stealing millions over 12 years. AMA anything about this wild story.
I'll be online starting at 1:30 pm EST. Proof.
Yes, I wondered why it was so small too. Winners who had significant cash assets were forced to pay back whatever they had, sometimes millions. Most of the winners were broke, and some had mortgaged their home to pay Jerry for the winning ticket, so they had nothing. $50 a month forever, I guess.
Big fan of your writing. So many great in depth articles. I was wondering why you haven't been featured on the Longform podcast?
I'd love to go on! big fan of the show.
When your article gets optioned (we all know it will), who would you recommend be cast as Jacobson? Columbo? Who's your all star cast for this wild story?
The writer never gets a say. While writing the story I imagined James Gandolfini (RIP) as Colombo.
What was the most unusual case you found? What is your favourite case?
Hello. I only write about unusual cases, however this McDonald's story is probably the most crazy. If you're interested in my other stories, you can find a good list here: https://longform.org/archive/writers/jeff-maysh
What’s the best thing you’ve won from McDonald’s Monopoly contest?
I never won a thing! (But I'm from England and as far I know, Uncle Jerry didn't corrupt the British Monopoly promotion). I live in LA now btw.
What was Jacobson’s personality like? Was he the cockiest motherfucker on the planet to think he could pull this all off?
He seemed to me a very conflicted character: He had the ex-cop swagger but he also relied upon the advice of psychics for life advice. I speak to a lot of criminals, and there is a pattern when it comes to fraud, there's a point of no return. Once you're doing it, you're doing it. And he did it, for 12 years.
Thanks for your response, Jeff. I loved the article when I read it this weekend - great longform journalism.
I thought it was quite funny Uncle Jerry used the psychics as a way to reason his riches and luck with others (pretty good excuse, really). I hadn't realized he was actually relying on psychics for advice. Quite a dichotomy in his confidence.
His psychics also became McDonald's winners...!
Okay, my lunch break is over, it's back to work for me! Thanks for all your questions!
I don’t understand Jacobson’s motivation in starting the scam when he was already making the equivalent of 200k today. Did he just do it to see if he could? And is that why he carried on for so long?
I think it was just good old fashioned greed and temptation.
There were a lot of hash browns and sodas sold for game pieces. Im glad they got the bad guys, but for years customers were duped. Thoughts?
I think Jeffrey Harris, the former deputy attorney general, said it best: “People that were buying the hamburgers, all they were getting at this point was cholesterol.”
How do you find unusual crimes in the first place?
I love microfilm, and sifting through old magazines and newspapers. There are often real gems, particularly in America, from the time just before the Internet.
Wow, I was just reading about this case the other day! Do you think that ex-cop/Uncle Jerry’s motive was purely money? I was a bit confused about his motives. He pretty much seemed to give away/share most of the winnings. He ended up making others rich, but in the end, he was the one who ended up getting the jail time, ordered to pay it back, and for what? It seemed like it wouldn’t be worth it. I guess, I can’t fathom doing all the work to help a bunch of acquaintances get prizes. He wasn’t very bright was he?
Do you know what uncle Jerry is up to now?
Jerry is living a quiet life in Georgia. His step-brother told me is very passionate about the environment.
Remember he did send a million dollars to the St. Jude's children's hospital, so he can't be all bad.
How long did the reporting process take for this story?
Good question! Well, I've been 'collecting string' on this story for over two years, but really I started 'properly reporting' late last year, so about six months. I had to travel to Jacksonville in person to get the court records, and I had to fly back over 25lbs of papers on the plane back to Los Angeles. Worth it!
Where will Spurs finish this season?
What city in the world is most fun for finding weird crimes?
If you're talking about my beloved Tottenham, we will finish second!
Atlanta is the hotbed of super cool crimes and criminals. See also: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-scarface-of-sex
Great to see Sonny score out here in LA!
Atlanta somehow not shocking haha.
I was at the game! Traffic around the Rose Bowl is a nightmare.
Does this story have movie potential?
Everyone seems to be saying that on Twitter...!
What's your favorite case you've ever covered? Other than this one if this one happens to be your favorite.
Well, I usually cover crime, but I wrote a story about catfishing last year that the Internet seemed to like. I really enjoyed writing about a romance with a happy ending!
Obviously this story affected McDonald's, but did it have any negative impact for Monopoly?
I guess not. Any publicity is good publicity. Mary Pilon's book about Monopoly is very good too.
It was Simon Marketing executives. But who knows. I believe promotional games and lotteries are more closely regulated now due to this scam.
Would you rather fight one duck sized horse or one hundred horse sized ducks?
Whatever Obama said.
In the end of the story you mentioned that dozens of winners are having to pay back 50 dollars a month. Is that a typo? 50 bucks seems silly. Especially since they surely each won thousands of dollars. Why would it be so small?(That's what she said)
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