In the new HBO docu-series “McMillion$,” a striking anecdote from a talking head suggests that the mega-popular Monopoly promotion isn’t the only food game potentially being rigged.
In Episode 2, the wife of Gennaro Colombo — the Mafia-connected man who helped Jerome “Uncle Jerry” Jacobson pull off the multimillion-dollar fast-food contest fraud — remembers wandering down to the kitchen of their home one night in 1995, stoned and looking for a snack.
In the fridge, Robin Colombo says, she found a single gray M&M, wrapped in foil. Her husband told her, “Don’t touch it!” Robin recalls.
Gennaro may have not just had a personal predilection for grey M&Ms: In 1997, M&M’s parent company, Mars, would run a promotion promising to make the finder of a gray “imposter” candy a millionaire, according to a Daily Beast article on the “McMillion$” fraud.
Cyrk Inc., the company that managed Mars’ promotions and advertising, in 1997 merged with Simon Marketing — the company that oversaw the McDonald’s Monopoly contest, and is featured heavily in “McMillion$” — the Daily Beast reported. Jacobson ended up stealing winning game pieces from Simon Marketing, where he worked in security.
In 1997, the hunt for the “imposter” M&M was all the rage — and caused at least a few people who didn’t read the fine print to become enraged.
In July 1997, Penni Wilson, of Baltimore, dug three out of a pack of the candy. However, when she called the toll-free number, she was told that she needed to also have a winning game piece inside the package in order to collect, according to the Baltimore Sun.
That same year, a college student in Florida allegedly found one of the coveted M&M’s before the contest had even been advertised, according to the Daily Beast.
“McMillion$” airs Monday nights at 10/9c on HBO.
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