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Chicago broker presumed dead turns up in Vegas

Arthur Jones, who vanished in 1979, now faces identity theft and fraud charges.

July 23, 2011|By Ashley Powers and Lisa Black
  • An undated photo of Arthur Gerald Jones, 72, a Chicago commodities broker who disappeared more than three decades ago and was declared legally dead. The photo was provided by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
An undated photo of Arthur Gerald Jones, 72, a Chicago commodities broker… (AP Photo )

Reporting from Las Vegas and Chicago — He rushed out the door around noon on May 10, 1979, promising his wife he would return after a business meeting. They'd been married for nearly two decades, and she sensed something was off.

Arthur Jones, then 40, was wearing a tennis shirt and slacks, not his normal corporate attire, she told the Chicago Tribune a few weeks later. He was frazzled enough that he forgot to put on his cherished bracelet. "The meeting is not in a business office," Joanne Jones recalled her husband saying before he sped away from their suburban Chicago home.

Jones never returned.

His wife reported him missing on May 11. Soon afterward, investigators found traces of him near O'Hare International Airport: his abandoned silver Buick and a pair of sunglasses. A court declared him legally dead in 1986, and Social Security paid his family $47,000 in survivor benefits.

But, as it turned out, Jones was on the lam.

The former Chicago commodities broker was discovered this month working at a casino sports book in Las Vegas, officials said.

Arthur Gerald Jones, now 72, was arrested July 19, according to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. The Nevada state attorney general's office has charged him with an array of fraud, identity theft and burglary counts. He was released on $20,000 bond and is scheduled for a court appearance in August.

The father of three was likely sprinting from a sordid past, authorities said, including possible entanglements with the mob. He told authorities that he had paid an associate $800 for a fake Illinois driver's license, birth certificate and Social Security number, according to court records. He then skipped around the country, stopping in California and Florida.

In the 1980s, Jones vanished into Las Vegas, a city of second chances where decades ago Midwestern mobsters remade themselves as civic leaders.

He and his longtime girlfriend lived on a block of stucco homes, dusty lots and a few horse corrals. They were registered to vote. The girlfriend and her family knew him only as Joseph Richard Sandelli, said his attorney, Stephen Stein.

"They had no idea about anything, which makes sense," he said. "Common sense tells you the guy's not going to go around telling anybody about this kind of thing."

In 1979, when Jones disappeared, he appeared to be living a suburban dream. He had met his wife while working as a delivery boy for her father's store, Mr. Joseph's Liquor Cabinet, which he later managed. He eventually became a commodities trader at the Chicago Board of Trade and lived in a sprawling ranch home with a volleyball court.

Beneath the Everyman veneer was a troubled gambler. He had once blown $30,000 on a basketball game, his wife told authorities, and had forged her name on a second mortgage application while desperate for cash.

A few months before he ran off, his wife said, Jones sold his slot on the Board of Trade to pay off $210,000 in debts. She told investigators that he continued going to Chicago to work. It was unclear for whom, authorities said, but she suspected the mob.

Then, in April 1979, a fellow local commodities trader was shot and killed in his suburban home by masked intruders. Jones was clearly rattled, his wife said. He took off shortly afterward, court papers said, "to get a fresh start."

In Las Vegas, Jones worked at the Desert Inn and then for a local casino's sports book, his attorney said.

If the man whose Social Security number Jones allegedly stole had not complained, he might have continued living in anonymity.
"I've lived here 10 years and I've never seen the guy," said Leslie Lamoya, 48, who lives down the street from his house. Another neighbor had only seen the couple bringing in the newspaper and watering plants.

Indeed, if the man whose Social Security number Jones allegedly stole had not complained, he might have continued living in anonymity.

The Arizona man reported to the Social Security Administration that his statements showed income from Las Vegas casinos where he had never worked. The resulting investigation led to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, which had issued Jones a driver's license in 1988 with his Sandelli alias and fake Social Security number. Jones renewed his license in 2008, which proved to be his undoing when investigators contacted the DMV.

When authorities asked if he was the Chicago trader who had vanished 32 years ago, Jones said yes.

Powers reported from Las Vegas and Black from Chicago. Black writes for the Chicago Tribune. Tribune reporters Andrew Wang and Sue Ter Maat contributed to this report.

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