FBI Agent Doug Matthews, who found the case about the man who stole $24 million from the McDonald's Monopoly competition. Picture: HBO
FBI Agent Doug Matthews, who found the case about the man who stole $24 million from the McDonald's Monopoly competition. Picture: HBO

'McMillions': The story about the man who stole $24 million is worth watching

By Buhle Mbonambi Time of article published May 1, 2020

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Have you ever entered a competition, be it run by a grocery store, a shopping centre or a fast food joint? 

Have you ever felt like you were being scammed, since no one from your area had ever won? Well, sometimes you need to believe that gut feeling because it does happen. 

I have been obsessed with scammer stories for the past two years. I’ve read articles, listened to podcasts and watched many documentaries about scammers. 

From Anna Delvey, who hoodwinked fellow social climbers in Manhattan, Elizabeth Holmes who played some of the world’s most prominent individuals with her fake medical discovery; to violent scammers like John Meehan and Dr. Ike Herschkopf. All of these people have one thing in common- they are brilliant. 

They have weirdly piqued my interest and somehow left me admiring these people for their intelligence. But they also leave me very angry because they use that intelligence to harm others.

Which brings me to "McMillions", the HBO documentary about the 90s McDonald’s scratch card promotion where people could win a $1 million. But nobody actually won. Or rather let me phrase it like this: people did win. Just not the way McDonalds hoped they would.

"McMillions" documents the story of how the FBI investigated the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam, which was run by a man called ‘Uncle Jerry.’ It shows the lengths the FBI went to, to bring the perpetrators to book. It involves a web of characters, stretching the breadth of the USA, via some small states and towns. And yes, there is some mob action happening too. 

The documentary interviews detectives who were actively involved in the investigation, the prosecutor of the case, representatives from McDonalds and the marketing company that ran the competition. 

It also features interviews with ‘winners’ and their family members. It documents what ripple effects the scam left on many of the people- some directly involved and others affected by the consequences of the actions of a few people. 

The star of the documentary has to be Agent Doug Matthews. You will either love or hate him. The pendulum swung both ways with me. He is those people who love being the centre of attention and can never stop talking. But it’s also that enthusiasm and love for the spotlight, that led him to the case in the first place. 

Now, the people involved in this scam are some really interesting people. And not all of them were desperate for the cash. They were just greedy. 

"McMillions" sometimes does too much showing, rather than telling us new information. It can be long winded and they sometimes repeat information they have already told us about. It could have been a four-part documentary. Some of the footage was filler stuff that didn’t add anything to the documentary. 

It’s still one of the most fascinating documentaries about scammers I have watched. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s either made into a film or a limited TV series soon. It’s that kind of story. 

"McMillions" is streaming on Showmax

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