4 Sentenced in Scam That Rigged Contest
A federal judge Thursday sentenced a man to two years in prison for a multimillion-dollar scam involving McDonald’s promotional games such as “Monopoly” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
Two other men were sentenced to six months of home arrest, and another to probation.
The four men were the latest to be sentenced in a broad probe into the years-long conspiracy, which prosecutors say involved more than $20 million in fraudulently redeemed game pieces. The pieces were attached to McDonald’s drinks and food boxes or obtained through advertising.
Forty-seven people have pleaded guilty. Four have been found guilty and one man was acquitted.
The four men sentenced Thursday -- Jerome Pearl, 45, of Miami; George Chandler, 30, of Walhalla, S.C.; John Henderson, 50, of Las Vegas; and Kevin Whitfield, of Savannah, Ga. -- were accused of recruiting winners or acting as winners in the games. Among the prizes they stole were a $1-million winning piece and luxury sports cars, prosecutors say.
The four were convicted in August of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. None of the men can keep the money they won.
Pearl received the two-year prison sentence and must pay restitution of $786,500 at $50 a month.
Chandler and Henderson were sentenced to home arrest and ordered to complete three years’ probation. Chandler also must pay $440,125 in restitution at $500 a month, while Henderson must pay back $473,167 at $150 a month.
Whitfield was sentenced to three years’ probation, fined $1,500 and ordered to pay $40,500 in restitution.
At the sentencing, Chandler and Henderson told the judge they had been duped and were not aware that the winning tickets given to them had actually been stolen.
“I’m a loser in the purist sense of the word,” said Chandler, who redeemed a $1-million game piece.
Attorneys for Chandler, Whitfield and Pearl plan to appeal. Henderson’s attorney said his client has not decided whether he will appeal.
Prosecutors said the men were involved in the conspiracy to redeem game pieces stolen by Jerome Jacobson, director of security for the company that ran the games for McDonald’s.
Jacobson took his first game piece in 1989 and gave it to a relative, prosecutors say. At his trial last fall, he testified that from 1995 to 2001, he stole most of the games’ high-value pieces, selling some to family and friends, who recruited others to join in.
Jacobson, 59, of Lawrenceville, Ga., was eventually sentenced to three years and one month in federal prison.