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For years there was a woman behind the man behind the shocking multimillion-dollar McDonald’s Monopoly game fraud.
Through a devastating illness, Marsha Derbyshire stood by her husband, fellow cop Jerome Jacobson, nursing him back to health and then joining him in the security industry. Little did she know that her then-husband would soon put together an unbelievable scam. And to this day, as seen on the new HBO docuseries “McMillion$,” she insists she never knew anything about Jacobson’s scheme.
Jacobson — known to law enforcement and his cohorts as “Uncle Jerry” — was not a well man for much of his life. He was a police officer in Hollywood, Florida, for just one year before a wrist injury benched him, followed by the diagnosis of the rare neurological condition Guillain-Barré syndrome, according to the Daily Beast, which wrote its own article on the case in 2018.
Derbyshire took care of her husband — bathing, dressing and feeding him, as she recalled on “McMillion$.” She helped him return to a place where he was fit to work.
“I gave him 15 minutes a day to feel sorry for himself, and after that 15 minutes, we were gonna work,” Derbyshire said in the docuseries.
In 1982, the two former cops both went into private security: Derbyshire at Dittler Brothers and Jacobson with Dittler’s client Simon Marketing, where McDonald’s was spending $500 million for the firm to run their mega-popular Monopoly promotion.
Jacobson would keep an eye on Dittler’s security personnel at the facility where the fast food giant’s game pieces were manufactured. He’d also personally deliver the winning pieces to McDonald’s packaging plants. The couple was divorced in 1983, according to the Daily Beast report. And temptation apparently soon got the best of Jacobson.
The labyrinthine, $24-million scheme would begin in 1989, when Jacobson, high off his important position, handed his step-brother Marvin Braun a winning game piece worth $25,000.
Derbyshire noted on “McMillion$” that she remained friendly with her ex-husband after the divorce — and that Jacobson was always generous by nature.
“If he made ribs for himself, he’d make them for the whole office,” she recalled. “Even when I was married again, if I needed something he would be right there. There was nothing stingy at all about him.”
However, Derbyshire said, it was clear to Jacobson what his wife would and would not tolerate, given their secure jobs.
“I told him if he ever stole anything, I’d kill him,” she said on “McMillion$,” laughing.
Jacobson’s Monopoly-rigging scheme would eventually deal out winning tickets to a wide and eclectic group of friends, distant family, and criminal associates, including alleged mafioso, according to “McMillion$.” And the whole thing would come crashing down in summer 2001, when Jacobson and seven cohorts were taken in by an FBI sting.
Derbyshire thinks that something changed inside her ex-husband after his battle with Guillain-Barré syndrome, as she said on “McMillion$.” With the possibility of being paralyzed or bedridden for life, she suspected he “had nothing to lose at that point.”
Still, she is resolute that she never suspected Jacobson was the mastermind behind one of the most unbelievable mass frauds in U.S. history.
“If I even suspected he was taking tickets, I would’ve told on him in a heartbeat,” Derbyshire said. “And he knew it.”
“I bet that’s why I didn’t get a ticket.”
“McMillion$,” a six-part docuseries, airs Monday nights at 10/9c on HBO.
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