For over a decade, a man named Uncle Jerry defrauded McDonald’s by stealing up to $24 million in prize money from the fast food chain’s popular Monopoly promotional game. By stealing game pieces before they ever went out to the public, Jerry hand-picked winners among family and friends. But what started out as an opportunity to make a quick buck spiraled out of control as the crime ring expanded to include ex-cons, ties to the mafia and unsuspecting co-conspirators before it was shut down by the FBI.
In HBO’s six-part documentary, McMillions, directors James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte chronicle the fraud from beginning to end as they sit down with people on all sides of this unbelievably true story about greed, deception and revenge. “When you hear the story, you can't believe that it's actually true and this had happened,” executive producer Mark Wahlberg tells ET about what makes this series so intriguing, adding that it’s filled with a “fascinating cast of characters.”
One of those larger-than-life personalities featured on-camera is FBI agent Doug Mathews, who gleefully details his experiences in bringing down Uncle Jerry’s crime ring. In fact, the internet can't get enough of him, with Uproxx calling Mathews “the best character on TV right now.”
The FBI has suffered some pretty big reputation hits in the Trump era, but I’m relatively sure Special Agent Doug Mathews (featured in HBO’s McMillion$) could fix it in a few weeks. pic.twitter.com/ajBjHtikFv— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) February 6, 2020
Described as “lightning in a bottle,” Hernandez and Lazarte tell ET that Mathews was quite the “wild” character -- but they loved every minute of working with him.
“As soon as he got on the phone, it was like, ‘When can I come to Jacksonville and see you guys?’” Hernandez says, recalling the first time they met after Mathews had spent a full day in court. “I met him at the FBI office in Jacksonville and even though he had worked all day -- he didn’t get there until about six -- we didn’t leave the FBI office until midnight. He was like the Energizer bunny.”
What Was His Role in the McDonald’s Monopoly Fraud?
A rookie at the time, Mathews played a pivotal role from the onset of the FBI investigation (dubbed: “Operation Final Answer”) into who was frauding millions out of McDonald’s.
Stationed in the FBI’s Jacksonville, Florida office, Mathews was bored by the white collar crimes he had been assigned when he came across a note that read, “McDonald’s Monopoly fraud?” After following up on the tip originally received by his mentor Rick Dent, he learned that three relatives all won the $1 million grand prize.
As the investigation grew, Mathews went undercover as a video production company hired by McDonald’s to revisit with all the past winners and even enlisted a McDonald’s employee, Amy Murray, to help interview them. His goal was to collect information about the winners, how they won and what they’ve since spent their money on.
What Is He Up to Now?
According to the two directors, Mathews is still an active agent based in Florida. “There’s a lot of privacy in terms of where he lives and what his family’s situation is,” Hernandez says, not able to reveal too much about his day-to-day or personal life.
“Some of his fellow agents are calling him Mr. Hollywood now,” the director adds. “Though, I think jokingly. But they also know who he is… Even in the first episode, the other agents say he was always a bit of an actor, even back then. That’s why he wanted to go undercover so bad.”
Speaking of undercover, Mathews reportedly turned down an offer from former special agent and undercover agent coordinator Janet Pellicciotti to join that team. “Doug is one of the hardest working agents I've ever met in my life," she said in McMillions. “He'll do anything. He'll try anything and he can talk forever. He is relentless.”
According to Heavy.com, Mathews is now based in North Carolina and has been working on fraud cases in the area.
What Does He Think of the Series?
“He’s very much been watching along,” Hernandez says. “He made a comment that people in his family are tired of his jokes but still laugh at him.”
Who Should Play Him in a Movie?
While the McMillions team is not working on a film adaptation, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have teamed up to option a 2018 Daily Beast article about the same events. No formal details have been announced, but that hasn’t stopped executive producer Archie Gips from sharing who he thinks should take on one of the key characters in the story. “Mark [Wahlberg] would play Doug Matthews who is the rookie agent that basically takes on the case,” he says of the I Heart Huckabees actor.
Of course, the internet has a few ideas of its own...
PERFECTION. I think Sam Rockwell should play special agent Doug Mathews. pic.twitter.com/m4W7uCzKh2— Sara Coates (@slcoates) February 25, 2020
McMillions: The True Story of the $24 Million McDonald’s Monopoly Game Fraud airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. Previous episodes are available to stream on HBO Go/Now.