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19/08/02 . By RON WORD, Associated Press Writer . Yahoo! News . U.S.A.  
McDonald's Scam Leader Testifies  
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The mastermind of a scheme that involved stealing valuable McDonald's monopoly game pieces testified Monday that he recruited trusted friends to help find people to redeem prize winning tickets.  

Jerome Jacobson, 59, of Lawrenceville, Ga., testified that he and recruiters would receive cuts of the prizes, which included cash awards up to $1 million and a Dodge Viper.

He testified Monday in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville against five men accused in taking part of the scam.

The defendants are charged with stealing high-value game pieces from McDonald's promotional games such as "Monopoly" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire ( news - web sites)" and illegally cashing them. The pieces were attached to McDonald's drinks and food boxes or obtained through advertising.

Jacobson was able to steal the prize pieces while working as head of security for Simon Marketing, the company that oversaw the games. He testified he received $75,000 a year in that post.

Jacobson said he and one of the recruiters told the people who redeemed the game pieces that the legitimate winner was involved in divorce case and did not want his estranged wife to know about the prize.

Jacobson, a former police officer in two Florida cities and Atlanta, also testified that none of the recruiters knew the other recruiters.

Jacobson bought more than $1 million in homes, cars and other property with the cash kickbacks. He forfeited those purchases when he pleaded guilty April 5 and faces up to 15 years in prison.

He testified under cross examination that although he promised to pay back $12.5 million, his assets going to the government are only worth about $350,000.

When asked how much money he received in the scam, he replied.

"I don't know," he said.

The trial for the five men is expected to last at least three more weeks.

Since the first arrests last August, 51 people have pleaded guilty for their roles in the 12-year scam.

Prosecutors said the conspiracy began in 1989 and involved more than $20 million in fraudulently redeemed game pieces.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux told the judge last week that 23 people remain under investigation and more arrests are possible.

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