A man arrested in Las Vegas more than 32 years after vanishing in Illinois — and 25 years after being declared dead — told a judge Tuesday that he will plead guilty in Nevada to felony identity fraud to avoid trial on more serious charges.
Arthur Gerald Jones, 73, and his lawyer, Stephen Stein, told a Las Vegas judge that Jones expects to receive probation and make restitution to the Social Security Administration and to an Arizona man whose name Jones used during 10 years working at a Las Vegas casino sports book.
Jones told Justice of the Peace Joseph Sciscento that he intends to plead guilty to fraud in connection with applying for a license or identification. The offense could carry a sentence of up to four years in prison, but Stein said Jones is expected to be sentenced to less than five years of probation. Three other felony charges would be dropped.
Jones has been free on $20,000 bail since shortly after his arrest July 19. Sciscento set a Sept. 12 date in Clark County District Court for his plea.
Jones made no public comment and quickly left the courthouse in downtown Las Vegas. Stein declined outside the courtroom to speak in detail about Jones and his background. Stein said he expects his client would face no further criminal charges and could be cleared by Nevada state gambling regulators to return to his casino job.
"It’s a great deal," Stein said of the agreement. "He pleads guilty, he makes restitution, and he goes on with his life. What crime is it to disappear?"
In a court affidavit, a Nevada state Department of Motor Vehicles investigator identified Jones as a former Chicago Board of Trade member and said he has had no communication over the years with the wife and three children he left in Highland Park, Ill.
The affidavit said that before disappearing in 1979, Jones paid a friend in Chicago $800 for fake identity documents using the name Joseph Richard Sandelli and a Social Security number belonging to another man.
In 1986, a court in Illinois declared Jones dead as of May 11, 1979, the date he left home to run an errand and failed to return. Some $47,000 in Social Security death benefits were later paid to Jones’ wife and children.
Deputy Nevada Attorney General Adam Woodrum said outside court Tuesday that it might be difficult to gain a conviction against Jones based on allegations of wrongdoing more than two decades old.
"The facts are intriguing," the prosecutor said. "But there are questions about the statute of limitations on some charges. What he’s charged with is only going into the DMV to get a fake ID."
Stein said he is encouraging Jones to go back to Chicago to re-establish an identity.