‘McMillions,’ ‘The Scheme’ Give Inside Peek At FBI Investigations

Two recent documentaries from HBO shed some light on how the Federal Bureau of Investigation operates, something that’s of increasing interest to people in racing because of the federal indictments against trainers Jason Servis, Jorge Navarro and more than two dozen others that resulted from a multi-year (and still ongoing) criminal investigation into the doping of racehorses.

The first, a six-part series that premiered Feb. 1, is called “McMillions.” It examines how a former Hollywood, Fla., policeman named Jerry Jacobson masterminded a scheme to “fix” the popular Monopoly game promotion from the fast-food chain McDonalds so that he and his associates could win all the major cash prizes over a 12-year span.

The second documentary, a two-hour movie called “The Scheme,” tells the story of an eager entrepreneur in the world of college basketball recruiting who was nailed in an FBI sting operation that many thought would lead to the downfall of some of the biggest programs in the sport.

Both “McMillions” and “The Scheme” are well worth watching, both from an entertainment and educational standpoint.

The “McMillions” investigation began with an anonymous tip to the Jacksonville office of the FBI about a $1 million Monopoly winner not being legitimate. By the end of the first part of the series, the FBI has a pretty good idea who the ringleader is, but no idea how he was fixing the game. The next five parts tell the stories of the network of friends, associates and miscreants who were recruited to carry out the scheme and defraud McDonalds out of $24 million in prizes from 1989-2001. It also explains how Jacobson, who was employed to secure the integrity of the contest, cheated the system.

The fraud was considered a federal crime because the U.S. Postal Service was used to transmit material. Jacobson, the mastermind known as “Uncle Jerry,” was sentenced to 37 months in prison. A  total of 50 people eventually were convicted as part of the conspiracy, the result of an extensive FBI investigation that included wiretaps, undercover officers and a sting that brought the curtain down on the scam.

The reason many people had never heard of the case was that the trial was on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before terrorist attacks hit New York and Washington, D.C.

While the FBI fully cooperated with the producers of “McMillions,” they seemed to want no part of “The Scheme,” which tells the story of Christian Dawkins, a former high school basketball player in Michigan who by his mid-20s had become a big player in the high-priced world of amateur athletics, aka NCAA basketball recruiting.

Unlike “McMillions,” where real crimes were committed, “The Scheme” – told from Dawkins’ perspective – is portrayed more as an investigation in search of a crime. Launched by the Southern District of New York (the same federal agency that charged Servis, Navarro et al), the two-year investigation employed undercover agents to masquerade as financial backers of a sports agency Dawkins had established with another man that would steer high school players to certain college basketball programs.

The investigation – which included videotaped sting operations on a yacht and in lavish hotel suites  – began after a man named Marty Blazer, who allegedly had scammed millions from investors in another business, told the FBI he had information about payments to college recruits and would be willing to wear a “wire” to help obtain evidence. His cooperation led to Blazer getting off with just probation for his admitted financial fraud.

When Dawkins and nine others, including four assistant college basketball coaches, were arrested on bribery and fraud charges in September 2017, the FBI and U.S. attorneys hinted that bigger names would be caught in the web. “We have your playbook,” one of the officials warned at the press conference announcing the arrests.

But the investigation didn’t land any bigger fish upstream or change the college basketball recruiting game – at least not yet. Dawkins was convicted in two separate trials and is appealing both cases.

Questions remain about the FBI’s performance in “The Scheme,” which doesn’t portray the bureau in the finest light. The undercover agent who acted as the financier for Dawkins under the alias Jeff D’Angelo, was mysteriously taken off the case shortly after a Las Vegas sting.

Maybe the FBI thought the assistant coaches and others arrested would turn in evidence on their bosses and dominoes would fall, indicting one big name college coach after another. That didn’t happen. In watching “The Scheme,” you get the feeling that one of the feds, somewhere along the line, threw up an air ball.

The post ‘McMillions,’ ‘The Scheme’ Give Inside Peek At FBI Investigations appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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