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30/08/02 . By RON WORD, Associated Press Writer . Yahoo! News . U.S.A.
Jury convicts four men in McDonald's game scam trial
JACKSONVILLE, Florida - Four men charged in a multimillion dollar scheme to redeem stolen McDonald's promotional game pieces were convicted Friday in federal court. A fifth man charged was acquitted.
George Chandler, of Walhalla, South Carolina; Kevin Whitfield, of Savannah, Georgia; Jerome Pearl, of Miami; and John Henderson, of Las Vegas, were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and were set to be sentenced Jan. 30. All four are free until then.
The jury deliberated for 13 hours over two days. Those convicted face a maximum of five years in prison and fines of dlrs 250,000. In addition, the government wants the men to pay restitution.
Thomas Lambert, of Bowling Green, Ohio, was acquitted on a mail fraud charge.
The men were accused of conspiracy to commit mail fraud for recruiting winners or acting as winners in McDonald's "Monopoly" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire ( news - web sites)" games from 1989 to 2001. The prizes included awards as high a dlrs 1 million and luxury sports cars.
Prosecutors argued that the men were involved in a conspiracy to redeem the game pieces, which were stolen by Jerome Jacobson, director of security for Simon Marketing, which ran the game for the hamburger chain.
Defense attorneys argued that their clients were unaware the winning game tickets had been stolen, and had been misled by Jacobson and others.
Jacobson, 59, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, pleaded guilty to stealing the tickets and testified that he took most of the high-value tickets from 1995 to 2001. He faces up to 15 years in prison and was been ordered to pay more than dlrs 12 million in restitution.
Since the first arrests last August, 51 people have pleaded guilty for their roles in the 12-year scam and are awaiting sentencing. About two dozen more arrests are expected.
Prosecutors said the conspiracy began in 1989 and involved more than dlrs 20 million in fraudulently redeemed game pieces. The pieces were attached to McDonald's drinks and food boxes or obtained through advertising.