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22/08/01 . n/a . BBC Online . Global
Eight arrested for McDonald's 'fraud'
Eight people have been arrested in the United States, accused of swindling fast food giant McDonald's out of millions of dollars. It is alleged the suspects fixed the outcome of a series of promotional games run by the company, netting more than $13m in prize money over a six-year period.
They were arrested by FBI agents, who staged a sophisticated surveillance operation following a tip-off.
Police say one of those charged worked for the company that administered the games for McDonald's.
Investigators say Jerome Jacobson, an employee of Simon Marketing Inc which controlled the distribution of the games, stole winning pieces from games such as Monopoly and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
He is alleged to have passed them on to his associates, who in turn recruited people to claim the prizes, including cars, electronic goods and a $1m grand prize.
The FBI said the racket had been operating as far back as 1995.
The investigation, dubbed Final Answer after the catchphrase from the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire television quiz show, began in April last year, a month before McDonald's became aware of its existence.
McDonald's said none of its employees was involved in the scam.
Chief Executive Jack Greenberg said the restaurant chain was "determined that nothing gets between us and our customers, and we're outraged when anyone tries to breach that trust."
'Not a game'
Attorney General John Ashcroft said the deception had cheated McDonald's customers out of a fair and equal chance of winning big prizes.
"Those involved in this type of corruption will find out that breaking the law is no game," he said.
The FBI says its investigation is continuing and more arrests might follow.
All eight suspects have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and felony complaints have been filed against them in a federal court in Florida.
If convicted, they face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.