Las Vegas Sun

January 30, 2015

Currently: 52° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Dead’ man who hid out in Las Vegas for decades sentenced to probation

Judge orders 73-year-old to make about $78,000 in restitution for Social Security benefits family received


Metro Police

Arthur Jones was arrested July 19 and charged with four felony counts of false identity, identity theft and fraud.

No, Arthur Jones, the man who had been legally dead for 25 years while hiding out in Las Vegas, won't have to go to prison for fraud.

Jones, who pleaded guilty to a class E felony fraud charge, was given a suspended sentence today of 18 to 48 months, with three years of probation.

A Clark County District Court judge also ordered the 73-year-old former Chicago man to pay about $90,000 in restitution.

The restitution is for about $78,000 in Social Security Administration funds his family has been collecting over the years.

It would also compensate the man whose identity he stole for $11,000 in dealing with the problem for 16 years.

However, "the chance of anybody getting any of this is pretty thin," Judge James Bixler said this morning during Jones' sentencing.

That's because Jones no longer has a job working in a casino. He's getting Social Security benefits — so it will have to come out of those funds, his attorney, Stephen Stein, told the judge.

Jones' fake identity fell apart in 2008, when he used a false name on an application to get a drivers license at the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles in Henderson.

He had been living in Las Vegas under the alias of Joseph Sandelli and is believed to have used that name since his disappearance from Highland Park, Ill., in 1979. His arrest came after a complaint regarding the fraudulent use of a Social Security number.

Jones has never revealed why he disappeared. Authorities in Chicago said he might have met some trouble because of gambling debts and possible organized crime affiliations.

However, Bixler indicated today Jones left to avoid some "marriage issues" and wanted to start a new life.

Jones was declared legally deceased in 1986, and his wife and children collected Social Security benefits as a result.

Investigators say Jones obtained a false Illinois driver's license, birth certificate and Social Security number he claims to have purchased in 1979 for $800 in Chicago. He allegedly used the documents to get a Nevada driver's license in 1988.

At today's hearing, Jones was present and out of custody on $20,000 bail.

Bixler read through the case and asked if Jones had another family in Las Vegas. Stein said he had children in Illinois.

The judge said because Jones pleaded guilty to a class E felony, probation was mandatory. But he asked Stein how Jones would pay his restitution.

"It will probably come out of the Social Security benefits he is receiving now," Stein said. The judge laughed.

Deputy Attorney General Adam Woodrum told the judge that Jones was entitled to Social Security benefits under his correct name.

"I certainly hope he's got it straightened out now with Social Security," Woodrum said.

Woodrum said Jones has never used the name of the victim, Clifton P. Goodenough, only Goodenough's Social Security number.

However, it did create a large problem over the years for Goodenough, Woodrum said.

Goodenough, who was allowed to speak at the sentencing, said his efforts to clear up the matter resulted in him being reassigned a new Social Security number for a couple of years.

"I was told issues were resolved, only to have it come back again and again," Goodenough said.

He said he has had to go through his whole financial life history with Social Security and IRS authorities and credit agencies to straighten things out.

Goodenough said that after many years he was finally able to get in contact with Jones. Goodenough, who works for the Veterans Administration in Arizona, said that prompted him to seek the help of the office of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"Arthur Jones was not just some man who used my Social Security number for a short period of time," Goodenough said. "He's not a man who committed a victimless crime."

Goodenough said he was a victim. He said his friends and coworkers who had to cover for him while he dealt with the problem were victims. Goodenough said his employer and fellow veterans have also been adversely affected.

Also hurt were the state of Nevada, the IRS, Social Security Administration, the Inspector General's Office and the FBI, which declared Jones dead, Goodenough said.

Goodenough said he and his wife have had trouble every time they tried to finance a home or a car.

"The fact that this happened while I was on active duty in 1979 begs many other questions at how many other servicemen and women may have been affected by Mr. Jones and his past associates in criminal activity," Goodenough said.

Under the judge's sentence, Goodenough will be compensated for $9,226.24, which worked out to one day's wages every year for 16 years that Goodenough lost by being in the Social Security office or the Internal Revenue Service office to explain about his number being stolen.

Goodenough was also compensated for $1,935 in accountant's fees for doing his complicated taxes. And he was compensated for $256 for air fare and hotels to come to Las Vegas for the sentencing.

Woodrum asked the judge to charge Jones $78,637 in restitution for the money his wife and children received from the Social Security Administration.

Before sentencing, the judge gave Jones a chance to make a statement.

"I apologize for what I did 31 years ago," Jones said. "I was not under the impression that it was a false identification. It was my fault for not checking it out and pursuing it."

Jones said he paid an unknown county official in Chicago "$800-some, I don't remember the exact amount."

"Really?" the judge said. "The purpose of which was to make you a new identification, right? And give you a new name, right?"

"That's what I honestly thought at the time," Jones said.

Bixler told Jones "you certainly created a big mess. It really won't be undone. It's only going to be partially remedied. But it's certainly not going to be unwound. This is going to go to your grave. And this one will be your real grave."

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 9 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Jail would have cost the taxpayer about $25,000/year or more, considering his age. There's no sense in fining the taxpayer for the misdeeds of one. $78,000 over 25 years is just over $3,000/year, not exactly a crime of the Century.

  2. Mr. Becker is correct.

    Jail is for people that are a danger. Outside of him changing his name he was not out to hurt anyone. His family collected since they had him declared dead.

    He is no real danger to anyone so probation and hopefully he will find a way to pay some of the money back.

    I am not surprised he did not get jail time. There are those that do a lot worse that don't go to jail.

  3. Nice guy. I miss him at the Rampart sports book.

  4. This just sends a signal to criminals that if they get away with it long enough, they can beat the system.

    Bad bad bad!

  5. "This sends a signal to criminals..they can beat the system".

    Wall Street, the Real Estate, Mortgage, Insurance and Title search Executives discovered this a long time ago. No one from Lehman Bros has gone to prison yet, particularly Richard Fuld, former CEO: billions down the tubes, gone, evaporated.

    The fact that Jones got away with only $78,000 gives him high priority for adverse sentencing. Had he robbed a liquor store of $300, he would go to prison for certain.

  6. With this verdict, I had to laugh. At the same time, the GOP wants to Privatize Social Security. This means sending retirement money to wealthy fund managers to 'make us all rich'.

    The most important thing to remember about 'Privatized Retirement Funds' is that they can be defaulted upon and never paid back. The fund managers can loose part or all of the the retirement money entrusted to them and are not legally obligated to pay it back.

    Such a big deal is made about $78,000 bucks over 30 years, yet the political and legal foundation to swallow up $100s of billions with no recourse is being laid by the Believer Boys of the GOP.

    Yeah, right, Jonesy didn't tell the truth. Neither did Pat Robertson, but Robertson made off with 100s of millions to save the souls of his donors and not one success story has ever made it onto the broadcast networks. Heaven come in, where ever you are.

  7. "Wise rooster does not use whip on lame buffalo".
    - Charlie Chan

  8. good post Sunjon

  9. "ID Theft continues to run rampant and with little to no severe consequences it will continue to do so. This man broke the law..."

    azsk8fan -- you're being too hasty here. The popular version of this kind of theft has intent to defraud behind it. This man bought an ID package from a government source with no intent to do anything but head west and start a new life -- not really different than Nevada's early settlers.

    Who did he actually hurt? No one. He had no direct knowledge of the person whose SS# was hijacked, and that victim was victimized more by the federal bureaucracy than this accused. He may have been a remote cause but wasn't a party to his ex-family going on the public teat.

    It's just so much easier to blame one lowly citizen than it is the soul-less, unaccountable machine we call government.

    "Where once the criminal law might have stood as a well-understood and indisputable statement of shared norms in American society, now there is only a bloated compendium that looks very much like the dreaded federal tax code. The end results can be downright ugly: a soccer mom thrown in jail in a small Texas town for failing to wear a seatbelt; a 12-year-old girl arrested and handcuffed for eating french fries in a Metro station in Washington, DC; and defendants serving 25-year to life sentences in California prisons for, among other things, pilfering a slice of pizza." -- "Overextending the Criminal Law" @