GUILTY VERDICT FOR FOUR IN MCDONALD'S SWEEPSTAKES SCANDAL

More Arrests Possible

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Four men were found guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud for their role in redeeming stolen game pieces from McDonald's Corp. promotions.

George Chandler, 30, of Wahalla, S.C.; Kevin J. Whitfield, 39, of Savannah, Ga.; Jerome B. Pearl, 46, of Miami; and John Henderson of Las Vegas, face up to five years in prison. They will remain free until their sentencing in January. A fifth defendant, Thomas Lambert, 56, of Bowling Green, Ohio, was acquitted.

The convictions on Aug. 30 came after a three-week trial one year after federal investigators broke up a crime ring that stole $24 million in prizes from its "Monopoly" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" sweepstakes.

51 indicted
Authorities charged

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53 people, eventually indicting 51; the five defendants were the only ones to go to trial. The rest pleaded guilty, including Jerome Jacobson, 59, of Lawrenceville, Ga., who as director of security for McDonald's promotions shop Simon Marketing stole the winning tickets during a 13-year period and distributed them to friends and associates.

Mr. Jacobson agreed to repay $12.4 million and faces up to 15 years in prison. His sentencing is in November.

Additional arrests possible
News reports indicate that the case could be far from over, with as many as two dozen arrests still pending, although a person close to the investigation cast doubt on additional arrests. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Tampa, Fla., declined to comment.

Since the first arrests in August 2001, McDonald's and other clients fired Simon Marketing; its parent, Simon Worldwide, faces bankruptcy. The agency was delisted from the Nasdaq exchange and its top officers have left the company.

Class action lawsuits
McDonald's launched a $10 million consolation game last fall and it plans to give away another $15 million in a similar instant win sweepstakes as early as this fall as part of a class action settlement. A Cook County, Ill., Circuit Court judge is expected to rule on that case Sept. 17. Meanwhile, suits between McDonald's and Simon Marketing are still pending.

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