HBO’s ‘Mcmillions’: Who Is the Informant That Tipped off the FBI?
HBO’s new documentary series, McMillions, comes from executive producer Mark Wahlberg and explores the theft of $24 million worth of cash and prizes from the McDonald’s Monopoly game in the ‘80s and ‘90s. As documented in the first episode, the FBI learned about the scam from an anonymous source. With so many players involved in the scheme, many viewers are wondering who that informant was.
What is ‘McMillions’ about?
McMillions is HBO’s latest true-crime docu-series and it tells the story of a former police officer who scammed McDonald’s out of millions of dollars worth of prizes during their decades-long Monopoly game promotion. “From 1989 to 2001, there were almost no legitimate winners of the high-value game pieces in the McDonald’s Monopoly game,” FBI Special Agent Doug Mathews says in the first episode.
During each game period, consumers would find game pieces on burger wrappers, french fry boxes, and drink cups. The majority of winning pieces offered customers fast-food items, but the most valuable game pieces were the ones that offered free cars and up to a million dollars in cash.
As uncovered in McMillions, Jerome P. Jacobson aka “Uncle Jerry” was the Chief of Security of the firm charged with securing the most valuable winning Monopoly pieces. The former cop found a way to steal the pieces and then sold them for a profit. He distributed the winning tickets to family and friends, and eventually recruited a network of people, including Gennaro “Jerry” Colombo, to sell them all around the country.
At the time of the subsequent charges and arrests, Attorney General John Ashcroft held a press conference in which he revealed how “this fraud scheme denied McDonald’s customers a fair and equal chance of winning.”
How the investigation began
In 2001, after a tip was called by an anonymous source, the FBI began investigating Jacobson and this fraudulent scheme. The call was first received by Special Agent Richard Dent at the Jacksonville FBI branch. Without thinking much of it, he passed the memo to his colleague, Special Agent Doug Mathews.
In episode 1, Mathews says he was intrigued when he read Dent’s note, ‘McDonald’s Monopoly fraud.’ Dent later told him that he received a call from someone who claimed the game was fixed.
“I contacted the source of this call,” Agent Mathews reveals. “And the source gave me three names that were previous million-dollar winners and said, ‘I know that this is fixed because these people are related.’ They’re on the family tree somehow with all different names. And the person controlling this is this nebulous name of Uncle Jerry.”
So who is the mysterious ‘Mcmillions’ informant?
The series hasn’t revealed the name of the tipster that first contacted the FBI in 2001. However, in a 2018 report by The Daily Beast, Robin Colombo — the wife of Gennaro “Jerry” Colombo (Jacobson’s partner in the scheme) — claimed that it was her late husband’s family who called in the tip.
According to the report, Robin alleged that Gennaro’s family tipped the FBI in an act of “retaliation” because she was driving the car that killed her husband, and because she wouldn’t let his family see her young son. She also suggested that Gennaro’s family gave the FBI the names of her family members that profited from the scheme.
Some viewers think that Robin’s theory makes sense. “The family no longer participated in the winnings, so someone decided to call and make a tip to the FBI and gave them some information,” a Reddit user wrote. “Maybe they were thinking ‘if we are not getting it, no one does.'”
Of course, this is all speculation. Unless the series or the FBI reveal the informant’s name, it will just have to remain anyone’s guess.