In 1988, Patrick Quinn was a contestant on the game show “Super Password,” a game show where contestants use their smarts to win large cash prizes. But there was something about him that he didn’t want anyone to know about.
Unfortunately for him, an audience member in Alaska noticed something about the bearded man that was quite familiar and possibly dangerous. Despite the story Quinn originally told producers about his life, it seemed like his lies had finally caught up to him.
Famous and Rich? Yes Please!
In 1984, “Super Password” premiered on NBC. Everyone wanted to be a contestant on this show for the simple fact that they could be on TV and potentially earn tons of cash. That’s exactly what one particular bearded contestant had in mind, too.
He Captivated the Audience
In 1988, a man by the name of Patrick Quinn appeared on the show as a contestant and he captivated audiences with his confidence and ability to answer anything that was thrown at him. But he was hiding a dangerous secret.
He Was Very Alluring
Quinn was quite a charmer, which is why the host, studio audience, TV viewers and even the other contestants connected with him right away. He was also pretty good at playing “Super Password,” too. So, what happened next wasn’t really much of a surprise to anyone.
He Came to the Show to Win
Quinn had obviously watched the show since it started airing because he was a pro at winning the various challenges. In fact, he was so good that he made it to the final round. But getting the grand prize became the least of his worries.
He Nailed the Final Round
A fellow contestant started describing different words that began with a certain letter and it was Quinn’s job to figure out what they were. He only had a small amount of time to guess correctly, which he did. But would he be satisfied with the grand prize?
He Won the Jackpot
As soon as the countdown ended, all sorts of whistles mixed with the sound of a cheering audience were heard. And viewers at home saw “$55,000” flashed on the bottom of the screen. This was a pivotal point in Quinn’s life, but it wasn’t necessarily for the better.
He Returned to the Studio Earlier Than Expected
Quinn returned to the studio a month after the episode aired, albeit sooner than the producers expected. But he quickly explained to them that he had to arrive earlier because he had been tasked to go on a government mission to Turkey and had to leave soon and this baffled the show’s producers.
He Worked With the CIA
According to the show’s host, once the episode wrapped up, Quinn had told him that he was in the CIA. And yet, the host had no idea whether Quinn’s backstory was legit or a work of fiction. But something was definitely off about the contestant.
He Spied on the Russians
Quinn alleged that he was once stationed in the North Pole so he and other CIA operatives could intercept Russian transmission for information that they could use. He also claimed he was happy to have earned himself a little extra money for himself. But his story came back to bite him a few weeks later.
Someone Was Waiting for Him
When Quinn returned to the NBC studios, he was floored when he knocked on the producer’s door. When it opened completely, he had been expecting to see the studio’s staff members, but there were others waiting for him and they were not happy.
The FBI Welcomed Him In
Inside the office were men in suits and they had guns and badges. The show’s network executives glanced at Quinn and they saw fear in his eyes. It seemed that his story was nothing more than a con, and the FBI wasn’t about to let him go with a slap on the wrist.
He Tried to Run
Quinn knew this day would come, which is why he had originally asked to get his prize money early. He was hoping that he could make a run for it all the way to Turkey, but the FBI agents had caught him and cuffed him. But how did they know he was the guy they had been looking for?
A Viewer Sold Him Out
Despite using an alias, a viewer from Alaska had been watching Quinn’s “Super Password” episode and they knew right away who he was and that he was wanted by the law. In fact, Quinn’s name was actually Kerry Dee Ketchum.
A Sting Operation Was Set Up
Once the viewer noticed Ketchum on the TV screen, he called the cops. Then, authorities set up an operation that would allow them to catch their fugitive in the producer’s office. But who was Ketchum and what had he done?
He Used to Be Law Enforcement
Although he impersonated a CIA agent, he wasn’t actually a part of the CIA. He used to be a deputy at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department in Dayton, Ohio. Unfortunately for him, his life in law enforcement ended when he went on a crime spree that made him famous for all the wrong reasons.
He Stole From the Military
While Ketchum served as a deputy, he didn’t hold on to his rank for very long because he was charged with theft. According to authorities, he stole $200,000 worth of military equipment, and ended up behind bars for 18 months. But that wasn’t the end of his crime spree.
He Committed Bank Fraud
Ketchum was also indicted in Indiana for illegally acquiring a $15,000 bank loan to get a car and then forging $15,000 worth of checks. But these crimes were mild in comparison to something else he had done.
He Also Committed Life Insurance Fraud
Ketchum was once again caught and sent to prison for five years after filing a death benefits claim for his ex-wife with the Fireman’s Fund American Life Insurance Co. The amount was for $100,000 and investigators had easily seen through his lies because of an obvious oversight.
His Ex-Wife Wasn’t Dead
Ketchum had claimed that his ex-wife has been killed in a car accident. But the Air Force enlistee who was reportedly killed was very much alive and completely unaware that her ex-husband had filed a life insurance claim. But Ketchum still felt that people weren’t seeing him for who he truly was.
He Wanted to Use His Brain for Something Good
Ketchum felt people had misjudged him. "Because I’m friendly and easy to get along with, people think I’m conning them," he was quoted saying. "That’s one of the reasons I went on the game show — to use my own intellect for something other than bad." But U.S. District Judge Matthew Byrne Jr. disagreed.
He Was a Common Thief
The judged that presided over Ketchum’s trial didn’t buy his explanation and was quoted saying: "You are a con man, and you are also a thief. That’s what I’m sentencing here, someone who uses his wits and his intelligence to become just a common thief."
Prosecutors Sided With the Judge
Prosecutors accused Ketchum of unleashing “a virtual tornado of deception” before he was taken into custody. And in addition to serving time, he also had to pay the insurance company for his attempt at fraud. But dismayed viewers still had one question on their minds.
Who Was Patrick Quinn?
Did Patrick Quinn really exist or did he create an alias out of thin air? It turns out that there was a real Quinn out there somewhere. It was the name of Ketchum’s old college professor, which he borrowed in order to win $55,000 on “Super Password.”
He Flouted His Responsibility to the Law
The Los Angeles Times quoted Assistant U.S. Atty. John F. Walsh III saying: “He’s used his engaging manner and his cleverness to flout systematically all the responsibility the law has placed on him.” But what led him down this dark path?
He Was a Rascal
Most people who turn to a life of crime do so because they grew up in atrocious conditions with horrible role models. But according to Jerry Newton, who was Ketchum’s attorney, this wasn’t his case. “He came from a good, working class family . . . ,” Newton was quoted by the Los Angeles Times, who added, “But let’s face it, Kerry’s a rascal.”
The Big Scandal Involved the Big M
Monopoly is a long, dull, painful game in which players compete to see who can survive an unfair economy the longest. As such, it’s hardly a surprise that the McDonald’s Monopoly promotion has historically been similarly broken...
The Long Game Took 12 Years
For twelve years, almost nobody legitimately won prizes from the Monopoly game. Instead, nearly all winners were in some way connected to one man who was secretly stealing the most valuable prize tokens.
Coming Soon to Theaters With Matt and Ben
The story of the big Monopoly heist is so bizarre that it’s tapped for both a biopic film starring Matt Damon, with Ben Affleck directing, and a competing HBO documentary series to be directed by Mark Wahlberg.
Hunting for Boardwalk
During their Monopoly campaign, McDonald’s gives customers themed tokens with their food purchases. Most of these tokens are worthless, and the average customer will be happy if they win a free ice cream. But some tokens gift prizes like luxury cars, Super Bowl tickets and huge cash prizes. But for years, you could only win one of these prizes if you knew the man in charge (and I don't mean Ronald McDonald).
High Value Tokens Were Guarded by Security
McDonald’s circulates a few rare tokens that read “Instant Winner!” which don’t require participants to have a full set of game pieces. It was these tokens that were guarded most carefully by the company’s security team, who suspiciously knew a lot of the prize winners.
Sorry Canada, The Biggest Prizes Are in the U.S.
Sometimes customers literally stand zero chance of winning. At one point, McDonald’s reorganized the distribution of the prize tokens so that they prioritized the United States over Canada. This was the start of a far bigger fraud...
A Hamburglar Named Jerome
Ex-cop Jerome P. Jacobson was fairly enthusiastic when he initially started working in security. He even went as far as to inspect workers’ shoes to make sure they weren’t stealing from McDonald's, but this dedication waned over time.
He Played A Dangerous Game
Said Jacobson, “I knew what we were doing in Canada was wrong. Sooner or later somebody was going to be asking questions about why there were no winners in Canada.”
Jacobson Formed a Plan
When Jacobson witnessed the prize redistribution, he began to realize just how easy it would be to get his hands on the winning tokens. By this point he had been promoted to head of security, and he soon began thinking up a sneaky plot.
Finding an Opening
It was Jacobson’s job to transport the winning prize tokens and personally place them on the packaging factory line. All he needed to do to carry out his plot was to find a way to switch the tokens when nobody was looking. And as head of security, he didn't need to have to much fear about being caught.
The Secret Weapon
Not long after the Canada switch, Jacobson received a package that had been accidentally sent to him from a supplier in Hong Kong. In contained a set of anti-tamper seals which would allow him to switch out the winning prize tokens without anyone suspecting a thing.
Shaking His Tail
To prevent theft, Jacobson was always accompanied by another member of security when he had the tokens. He only needed to find a way to get a moment alone so that he could switch out the tokens and replace the anti-tamper seals.
Taking a Chance Card
So how did Jacobson manage this? Simple: he went to the bathroom. In the privacy of the stall, he had a few moments to carefully make the switch and pocket his prizes.
Even after making the switch, Jacobson could never claim the prizes for himself. That would look far too suspicious. Instead, he sold the prizes to distant friends of family members who might want to get in on the action, and he took a cut of their winnings and earned his associates $24 million in stolen prize money.
Jacobson knew that he would be in a lot of trouble if McDonald’s ever found out about his theft, so he made sure he had enough dirt on the company to keep himself safe. Having already stolen records proving the Canada prize switch, he figured his position at the company was safe.
Paying it Forward
It was then that Jacobson decided to do something really kind with one of his ill-gotten prizes. Provided with the opportunity to steal from the rich, Jacobson went full Robin Hood.
Hey Saint Jude
The staff at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee were entirely blown away when, one morning, they received an envelope containing a million dollar instant win Monopoly token. Some good Samaritan had handed them an incredible donation without revealing their identity.
Suspicion is Raised
McDonald’s obviously took this as an opportunity for free publicity, but despite an investigation into the origin of the envelope, nobody could figure out where the game token had come from. Jacobson assumed he was still in the clear.
Alas, Jacobson was not as safe as he’d assumed. After several years of stolen prizes, McDonald’s bosses were beginning to get wary, and an FBI investigation began searching for a conspiracy.
One of Jacobson’s co-conspirators had snitched anonymously to the FBI, and, working with McDonald’s, they quickly discovered Jacobson’s crimes. To their surprise, his involvement was only the tip of the iceberg.
Playing with the Big Boys
It turned out that Jacobson had also roped in members of the Colombo Mafia to participate in his scheme. In a massive sting, the FBI indicted over twenty people who had been part of Jacobson’s fraud.
Out of Luck
The FBI finally came for Jacobson in the dead of night, dragging him away in handcuffs. He went directly to jail, did not pass GO, and did not collect $200. But would the judge be lenient on him because he gave his winnings to charity?
Get Out of Jail Free?
Once in custody, Jacobson admitted his crimes. He attempted to use his stolen evidence of the Canadian cover-up to aid his case, but to no avail. Similarly, while he’d hoped to use his donation to St. Jude’s to bargain for a reduced prison sentence, this was dismissed.
The House Always Wins
Not all of Jacobson’s accomplices faced jail time. Some were simply ordered to repay their winnings, $50 a month, for the rest of their lives. Because over $20 million was stolen, even with this agreement, McDonald's did not expect to get all of their funds returned to them.
Monopoly at Its Finest
Ultimately, this story ends with the biggest, wealthiest food entity (McDonald’s) squeezing pennies from everyone else in a slow, agonizing trudge to the finish. Just like any other game of Monopoly!