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May 25, 2015

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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

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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."

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