Four Found Guilty, One Acquitted in McDonald’s Scam Trial

05 September 2002

Charges of conspiracy and mail fraud were found proven against four defendants in the McDonald’s promotional gamepieces fraud trial; a fifth, Thomas Lambert of Bowling Green, Ohio was acquitted

The guilty quartet – George Chandler from Wahalla, South Carolina, Kevin J Whitfield (Savannah, Georgia), Jerome B Pearl (Miami) and John Henderson of Las Vegas – were freed pending sentencing in January. All face up to five years in the penitentiary.

The convictions follow a three-week trial in Tampa, Florida, and come almost exactly one year after federal investigators uncovered a crime ring of over fifty conspirators who systematically filched $24 million (€24.19m; £15.33m) from the fast food chain over a period of thirteen years.

Masterminding the operation was Jerome P Jacobsen (58), the former director of security at McDonald’s promotional agency Simon Worldwide – now facing bankruptcy. Promo industry insiders allege the crime all but stood up and begged to be committed, given the inadequacy of security controls both at the agency and McDonald’s.

It couldn’t have been simpler: Jacobsen stole prize-winning gamepieces for numerous McDonald’s lottery-style promotions, among them Monopoly and Who Wants to be a Millionaire, then passed the winning pieces to a widely-scattered group of friends and associates who claimed the cash prizes.

In April he pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and mail fraud and will be sentenced in November. Up to fifteen years in jail await Jacobsen, who has also agreed to repay $12.4m of his ill-gotten gains.

The saga does not end with these latest convictions. Many more defendants have yet to be brought to trial, and over twenty further arrests are expected.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff