The widow of a man who was charged with conspiracy in a plot to bilk a McDonald’s Corp. contest in which he won the $1 million grand prize is suing the company for failing to make good on the full payment.
In the lawsuit, filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois, Naomi Warwick is seeking more than $2 million in damages on behalf of her deceased husband, Stanley Warwick. In April 1999, Warwick won $1 million playing McDonald’s Monopoly game. He assigned the prize money to his wife, which called for 20 annual payments of $50,000.
McDonald’s paid three installments of $50,000, but ceased making payments in May 2002, breaching its contract, according to court documents.
Warwick is seeking $850,000 and an additional $1.3 million in damages and lawyer’s fees, according to the lawsuit.
A spokesperson for McDonald’s Corp. said the company does not discuss pending legal matters.
In 2001, Stanley Warwick was charged with conspiring to commit mail fraud as part of a scheme to steal the winnings of the Monopoly sweepstakes. The game gave players a chance to win various prizes by matching game pieces to a game board. Warwick was one of 43 people charged in the nationwide scam, in which winning game pieces were stolen and redeemed. Warwick’s case, however, never went to trial. He died in 2003.
The lawsuit states Warwick complied with all the published rules of the contest, despite published reports that he pleaded guilty to the charges. John C. Ambrose, a lawyer with the Chicago-based firm Ambrose & Cushing representing Naomi Warwick, said Stanley Warwick never pleaded guilty to any criminal charge.
Jerome Jacobson, the scam’s ringleader, pleaded guilty in 2002 to stealing more than $20 million worth of Monopoly game pieces and was sentenced to more than three years in prison. Jacobson worked as head of security for Simon Marketing Inc., the agency in charge of running the Monopoly promotion. Jacobson and “recruiters” would steal game pieces and the “recruiters” would redeem them and share the prize money with Jacobson, court documents stated.
In a related development, last October a Florida appellate judge overturned all criminal convictions for four other men related to the McDonald’s game.
“There was no proof whatsoever that any defendant recklessly disregarded the truth about the unlawful activity underlying the criminal conspiracy charged—the embezzlement of the game stamps,” the decision states. “The government did not prove that the defendants committed mail fraud.”