Would you like some McLies with your Macca's Monopoly game?
Michael Hoover stands in the car park of a grocery store in Florida beaming from ear to ear.
He tells a camera crew an elaborate story about how a series of seemingly random occurrences during a day at the beach led him to purchase a magazine that contained a $1 million McDonald's Monopoly prize.
"Day started out pretty peacefully," Hoover says in the footage.
"It was a day off and, uh, I went to the beach for a while. I ended up actually falling asleep at the beach. When I woke up the wind had come up. I was covered in sand."
He says he went to the water to clean himself up but the People magazine he was carrying in his backpack tipped into the water. On the way home he picked up some groceries and a fresh copy of the magazine because: "I never got a chance to read it."
"When I got home I was leafing through it. We had the Monopoly prize game (inside). The first one I peeled off was Pennsylvania Avenue. The second one I peeled off was a million dollar prizewinner. I was like, 'Wow, is this for real?'"
What Hoover doesn't know is that the people behind the camera are FBI agents asking that same question.
The footage is part of the new, six-part HBO documentary series McMillion$ which takes a deep dive into one of America's most unbelievable scams.
It shows how a former police officer with access to McDonald's Monopoly peel-to-play stickers managed to scam $24 million between 1989 and 2001 before he was eventually caught.
Hoover, allegedly a small player in the scheme, was later arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud in a plot that involved dozens of people.
But the brains behind the operation was Jerome Jacobson, aka "Uncle Jerry".
Jacobson worked as director of security for Simon Marketing, the firm that made the tiny game pieces which promised the chance to win with every McDonald's meal.
Jacobson was responsible for transporting the winning stickers to packaging centres around the country where he would apply them to cups and cardboard packaging.
But as the six-part series goes on to show, the former Florida cop got in over his head when he figured out a way to make a profit.
In bathroom stalls in cities around America, Jacobson unsealed his briefcase, pocketed the winning stickers and replaced them with other stickers.
He then sold the winning stickers to a network of friends and associates for lump sums.
As McMillion$' LA-based directors James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte told news.com.au, Jacobson would have gotten away with it had he not become greedy.
"Greed is one of the largest themes of the show," Lazarte said. "If he had stopped, he never would've been caught. It's that greed that kept him going."
But Hernandez said the team discovered that it wasn't just greed that drove him.
"There's a lot that we did not know about Jerome," he said. "There was a constant discovery. What motivated a guy like this?"
He said some people saw him as "Robin Hood" - stealing from the rich (McDonald's) and giving to the poor. Jacobsen also sent a $1 million game piece to St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee.
"The anonymous donation. Why did he do that? Did he have to do that? There's a lot of things that played into that character," Hernandez said.
But the idea that there are no victims is not completely accurate. People lost jobs, they lost livelihoods.
"In general people assume this was a victimless crime," Lazarte said.
"But when you look at the grand scheme you'll realise there were a great number of victims."
The directors say the documentary tells a story that went largely untold because of the timing of the investigation. The big bust happened on September 10, 2001, one day before planes flew into the World Trade Centre.
Jacobson was caught after FBI agents discovered a cluster of winners around the southeast of the United States.
A tip-off about a winner with ties to Jacobson led authorities to place wiretaps on suspicious winners. They arrested Jacobson and seven others in August, 2001.
At the age of 58, Jacobson was sentenced to 37 months in prison and ordered to pay back more than $12.5 million.
"This fraud scheme denied McDonald's customers a fair and equal chance of winning," then-US Attorney-General John Ashcroft said.
McMillion$ drops on Binge from Sunday, June 28.
Originally published as Massive lie behind novelty cheque photo