Twenty-one people were indicted Monday on charges they were involved in a conspiracy to commit mail fraud in a nationwide scheme to steal the winnings of McDonald's prize contests.

The indictment alleges that as far back as the late 1980s, Jerome Jacobson, director of security for Simon Marketing Inc., embezzled more than $20 million worth of high value winning McDonald's game pieces from his employer.

The indictment also alleges he then distributed the winning game pieces to individuals who personally redeemed the game or recruited others to redeem the game pieces for prizes, some valued as much as $1 million.

Simon Marketing Inc., with headquarters in Los Angeles, had offices in Atlanta, where Jacobson worked. McDonald's had contracted with Simon to run its popular Monopoly games.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, Jacobson, 58, is charged with eight counts of mail fraud.

The scheme was made public Aug. 22 when Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the arrest of eight people in the scandal.

The maximum penalty for a single count of mail fraud is five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution. The government is also seeking forfeiture of money, cars or any items purchased with the winnings.

Among the prizes the government wants returned are a 1989 Mercedes Roadster, 1995 Ford F350 pickup, 1997 Isuzu Rodeo, 1997 Lexus ES300, 1998 Chevrolet Corvette, 2000 Honda S2000 and a 2001 Toyota Highlander.