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What Could the Hamburglar Actually Be Charged With?

Forget the McDonald’s Monopoly scheme, the real true crime is that the Hamburglar has never served hard time

If you’re up to date on HBO’s McMillions documentary series, you already know the name Jerry Jacobson, who stole $24 million over 12 years by rigging the McDonald’s Monopoly game. But while the FBI sent Jacobson away for 37 months in prison, they’ve ignored the even larger criminal element at McDonalds: I’m talking, of course, about the notorious Hamburglar, who’s been brazenly stealing from McDonald’s since 1971, and all while he’s been on the company’s payroll. 

Why the FBI has chosen to ignore this crime spree is unclear. Perhaps it’s because there appear to have been a few different Hamburglars over the years, or perhaps it’s because Ronald McDonald has never pressed charges. Whatever their reasoning, I felt it was my duty as a concerned citizen, father and McDonald’s patron to do my part, so I reached out to a couple of attorneys to help me build a case against him. 

I’ve done my part — the next step is up to the FBI.

The most obvious crime to look at with the Hamburglar would of course be his namesake — burglary — but according to Vermont attorney Elizabeth A. Kruska, “generally, with a burglary, you need to have an entry and the intention to commit an additional crime, like a larceny or theft.” The definition for terms like “theft,” “larceny” and “burglary” are going to vary from place-to-place — and the laws in McDonaldland are unknown — but Kruska says that usually, burglary involves entry, which the Hamburglar rarely does. Instead, he’s probably committing theft, as most of his crimes involve him swiping a plate of hamburgers from Ronald and then making a break for it, like so:

While he never seems to get away with the theft, Kruska explains that that doesn’t matter, as the theft itself still took place. She offers up the example, “Suppose you had a situation like a purse snatcher, where a man runs down the street and steals a lady’s handbag, but he doesn’t realize that she’s a champion sprinter and can chase him to the end of the block and she takes it back. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. She has been restored because she got back her belongings, but he still formed the intent to steal the purse and he still took the purse without the intention of giving it back.”

Meanwhile, though burglary isn’t in the Hamburglar’s regular M.O., he has committed the crime, which is made frighteningly clear by this commercial:

In it, the Hamburglar isn’t just grabbing some burgers from Ronald in a park: He’s clearly in this girl’s home, waiting for her to arrive, then pops up out of a couch cushion like a jack-in-the-box (not even the right burger franchise!), grabs the burgers, escapes through a hole he’s made in the floor and runs around the girl’s house as Ronald and the girl pursue him. This commercial alone is possibly the most damning piece of evidence against the Hamburglar, as it shows a whole variety of crimes. 

“That one is so creepy,” Kruska says. “To start off, we likely have a trespass in this situation because the fact that he concealed himself would tend to show that he wasn’t welcome there.” Additionally, Kruska says that part of trespassing is also continuing to be in a place after knowing that you’re not welcome there, so as Ronald and the girl pursue the Hamburglar, he’s being shown that he’s unwelcome, and he’s only getting himself in deeper with this trespassing charge. 

Home invasion is a crime unto itself, and then there’s laying in wait and stalking to consider, which Chicago attorney Jonathan Goldman explains that the Hamburglar seems to do not only in this girl’s house, but in most of his crimes, as he’s often waiting for his victims behind a bush, tree, or most creepily, inside that couch cushion. Goldman also brings up the destruction of property in that specific commercial, as the Hamburglar has clearly sawed a hole in the floor to make his escape. 

Then there’s reckless endangerment to consider. The Hamburglar put that girl in serious danger by entering her home in that way, and he often seems to victimize children, like this Japanese commercial that shows him stalking children in a park:

Kruska says the fact that the Hamburglar often seems to target children makes him all the more possible to convict. “There are places where consideration is made for ‘vulnerable victims,’ which you might see for people in caregiving roles who mistreat the elderly. So, if McDonaldland was a jurisdiction that accounted for that, that might make it worse.” Even if this wasn’t a specific law in McDonaldland, Kruska says, “suppose a prosecutor were arguing this in court, they’d certainly use it to help convince the jury: ‘This Hamburglar was so wanton in his desire for hamburgers he will even steal from children.’”

Kruska emphasizes, though, that much of what can be pursued with the Hamburglar is going to depend on the laws in McDonaldland. For example, consider this commercial, where Ronald McDonald is teaching young hamburgers at Hamburger University. As the class begins, the Hamburglar suddenly appears and begins abducting all the talking hamburgers:

Now, these are vocal hamburgers with possible human-level intelligence (they have been accepted into a higher education institution, after all), so would this constitute theft of property, like his other crimes, or would the theft of sentient hamburgers be considered kidnapping? It all depends on what’s on the books, though Kruska says, “There may very well be laws that protect all the types of creatures in McDonaldland. Just look at Grimace, whatever the heck he is — he’s likely protected by laws. Imagine if these were kids instead of hamburgers and someone came into a classroom and threw kids into a trolley, that would be the worst crime ever; I can’t even imagine the headlines.”

While we’re at it, it might be worth pursuing mail fraud for this commercial where the Hamburglar impersonates a mailbox. “That one might be federal,” Kruska says.

Goldman says there’s possible indecent exposure, too, as there’s a commercial where Ronald rips off the Hamburglar’s underwear.

And this commercial, where the Hamburglar fires a cannon during a baseball game. Goldman says that it might rack up charges of illegal weapons possession, reckless endangerment, possession of a weapon of war and even terrorism charges, since he probably doesn’t have a permit for that cannon.

So, how long could the Hamburglar be put away for? Well, that’s hard to gauge, as sentencing is a whole different story, one that’s left up to a judge. For a conservative estimate, he might be found guilty of say, 200 thefts, but Kruska explains that they’d likely all be charged separately, which can make things difficult for the prosecution. Still, if they got him on everything here, Goldman says he might be looking at a few consecutive life sentences, meaning he’d be put away for good.

That is, if he didn’t get away with it: As Goldman says, “I’d never be a prosecutor myself — I have no interest in that side of things. If anything, I’d be defending the Hamburglar. Honestly, if he needs a good lawyer, he’s welcome to call my office.”

As for how to defend such a notorious criminal? Well, for one thing, Goldman says that there appears to be a language barrier with the Hamburglar. “He mostly seems to talk in a ‘robble, robble’ type of gibberish, and that’s a good thing for him, because then I can make the case that there’s a language barrier, and I could argue that he doesn’t understand what’s going on,” Goldman explains.

There’s also the issue of whether or not multiple Hamburglars exist. Not only is there the classic Hamburglar — or “Hamburglar Prime,” as I’ll call him — but there was that weird, creepy “Hot Hamburglar” from a couple of years ago, not to mention the nightmare fuel that is his original form. So, if Hamburglar Prime is in a courtroom, Goldman says that “the changes in appearance could swing reasonable doubt in his favor when it comes to any eyewitness or camera identification.”

Finally, there’s how Ronald reacts to the Hamburglar’s regular theft. See, generally, when the Hamburglar steals from Ronald, Ronald pursues him, gets the burgers back and gives the Hamburglar a burger. While that may be nice of Ronald to forgive and forget, Kruska says that may present a problem for the prosecution: “This might actually help to create reasonable doubt. So say there’s a situation where they’ve decided to try these cases all together — which is rare, but possible — if in every single one of those instances they have their silly little chase and Ronald rewards him by giving him a hamburger, the Hamburglar might have reason to believe that he has the right to do this.”

Kruska goes on to explain that if Ronald were to say in court, “I had to chase you in a playground and then I had to chase you in the park and so on,” the defense could counter by saying, “Every time you’ve done this, here’s the tone of the situation: Everybody’s laughing, everybody’s having a good time, and when the Hamburglar hands the hamburgers back to you, you give him a hamburger. So he didn’t have any intention of permanently depriving Ronald of these hamburgers. He just wanted one of the hamburgers, and he knows if he does this, Ronald will give him one. Therefore, there never was any theft. This is just the dance they engage in in order for him to get one hamburger.”

In other words, to go back to the Monopoly parlance, Ronald’s generosity could be the Hamburglar’s get-out-of-jail-free card, allowing this fast-food scourge to continue his crimes into perpetuity.