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Posted 03 Sep 2001   For week ended August 31, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 30Aug01

By Kent Larsen

Mormon Couple Arrested in McDonald's Scam

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA -- A Mormon real estate developer and his wife are among the eight people arrested in a scam to defraud fast food restaurant chain McDonald's of the winning game pieces in its popular "Monopoly" and similar promotions. Noah D. "Dwight" Baker and his wife Linda Baker are charged with recruiting friends and relatives to cash in the winning game pieces, in a fraud that so far totals $13.8 million.

The widely-publicized arrest by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation also included the scam's mastermind, Jerome P. "Uncle Jerry" Jacobsen, an employee of Simon Marketing, the firm McDonald's used to distribute the game pieces randomly across the US. Johnson is accused of starting the scheme as early as 1995, recruiting accomplices to turn in game pieces through an unidentified Charleston man, who later died and, after 1999, allegedly through Baker and Andrew "A.J." Glomb.

According to the FBI, Jacobsen, manager of game security for Simon Marketing, traveled throughout the US during the twice-annual contests, randomly placing winning peel-off contest stickers on McDonald's packaging and inserting instant-winner tickets in magazines and Sunday newspaper circulars. But instead of placing the most valuable prizes, Jacobsen allegedly embezzled them, passing them on to others in exchange for a fee or a share of the winnings.

After an initial accomplice died, Jacobsen met Glomb and Baker, persuading them to recruit friends and family to cash in the winning game pieces, according to FBI charges. Jacobsen apparently met Baker when he purchased two pieces of property from Baker, who was developing land on Lake Hartwell, southwest of Greenville, South Carolina on the Georgia-South Carolina border.

According to the report in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the Bakers are active members of their Mormon congregation and devoted parents of five children. The report also indicates that Baker is known in the area as a charismatic man with big dreams. His plans included a championship golf course and resort in the area, according to local real estate broker, Charles Kormelink. But Dwight and Linda Baker couldn't persuade enough investors to make the plans a reality.

Those dreams may have been slipping farther and farther out of reach. The Journal and Constitution report says that Baker's several development companies owed a total of nearly $30,000 in back taxes, and county tax officials had already sold one parcel at auction to collect on the debt. The records also show Baker's sale of the two parcels to Jacobsen, as well as that the Bakers were partners with another of the alleged conspirators, Ronald Hughey, in a real estate development.

During the next two years the Bakers allegedly recruited four "winners," including Hughey, John Davis and Linda Baker's sister, Brenda Phenis. Those three were also arrested.

But the scheme began to unravel about a year ago, when an informant told the FBI about the deception. Securing the cooperation of McDonald's, which continued the promotions so that they could investigate, the FBI placed wiretaps on the conspirators, including the Bakers. In one instance, FBI agents tracked Dwight Baker as he met with Jacobsen in, ironically, Fair Play, South Carolina, where Brenda Phenis lived. On another occasion, the wiretaps recorded the Bakers arguing over whether to share the $500,00 prize that Phenis had claimed. The recording has Dwight Baker saying, "I want it all; no ifs ands or buts," according to the FBI's affidavit.

The FBI then asked McDonald's to delay making payment to the winners leading the conspirators to try and put pressure on the company. Dwight Baker and Jacobsen the planned to have Baker pose as Phenis' son, according to the FBI, and call McDonalds to demand the money. At the end of a conversation about the plan, Jacobsen told Baker to say, "Do we need an attorney or do I need to call the home office, or let someone there explain to me why, or do I need to call Burger King."

Dwight and Linda Baker, as well as the other conspirators, were arrested August 21st and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, in addition to the return of the fraudulently obtained proceeds. But not all the charges have been filed, as the FBI is still completing its investigation. The alleged conspirators are due back in court on September 5th.


McScam suspect not talking
Atlanta GA Journal-Constitution 25Aug01 P2
By Duane D. Stanford and Andrea Jones: Staff
Businessmen allegedly helped cheat McDonald's

Informant key to unlocking scam behind golden arches
USA Today pgB01 24Aug01 P2
By Gary Strauss
Withyout tipster, McDonald's and its diners might still be in dark about rigged games

Tip put an end to scheme in fast-food game
Atlanta GA Journal &Constitution pgA1 23Aug01 P2
By Dana Tofig

McScam: 8 busted in prize fraud
Atlanta GA Journal &Constitution pgA1 22Aug01 P2
By Bill Rankin

FBI sting breaks up fast-foot scheme
USA Today pgA01 22Aug01 P2
By Kevin Johnson
8 jailed in theft of winning McDonald's game pieces

McDonald's Monopoly game was rigged, U.S. charges
MSNBC (AP) 21Aug01 P2
Associated Press

FBI arrests 8 in fraud scheme targeting McDonald's game
CNN 21Aug01 P2

Eight Arrested for Defrauding McDonald's Corp. and its Customers in Promotional Prize Contests
FBI Press Release 21Aug01 P2


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