The Christmas vacations came and went, and there were still no arrests. Nor could Creighton be found. There were rumors that Creighton was alive and well and had changed his identity again. Others held conspiracy theories that Creighton was dead, his already hidden fortune had been stolen, and that no arrests would be made because all levels of government were involved. The 5dimes went on without Creighton, taking bets and setting the odds as if nothing had happened. And in a way, nothing happened. Creighton lived most of his life in secret, hiding from the radar, trying never to use his real name or allow any pictures to be taken of him. For most of his life, he worked hard to make it seem like he didn’t exist at all. And now that he was gone for real, except for the Creighton family, it was hard to see any real difference.
In January, more than three months after the kidnapping, Morales Vega relaxed a bit. No longer content with cab rides, he began negotiating the purchase of a luxury SUV. He also moved his family to a large residence in Zaragoza, which was large enough to accommodate his entire crew. As soon as Morales Vega settled into his luxurious new home, officers of the Spanish Civil Guard burst through the front doors. Police arrested Jordan Morales Vega, his 45-year-old mother, Giselle Vega Aguirre, and his 24-year-old girlfriend, Maria Fernanda Solis Chavez. That same day, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Costa Rica police tied a chain to the door of a dilapidated building and attached the other end to a truck. As the truck sped off, the metal door flew off its hinges, allowing a phalanx of heavily armed officers to enter the building. In all, police conducted ten separate raids across the country and apprehended nine different suspects, including two police officers suspected of holding Creighton the night he was kidnapped and the 71-year-old grandmother of Morales Vega, Aguirre Leal, in which house the gang had kept Creighton the night he was kidnapped, and it was the last place he was known to be alive. At Leal’s house, the group searched the basement in bio hazard suits, broke the concrete floor and burrowed under the foundation. They also brought a backhoe and dug up the yard, looking for Creighton’s remains, but found only dirt. Two days later, Marcy Gonzalez reported the manhunt on Good Morning America . “The Costa Rica police say that after all the digging in this basement and in the yard of this house, they still haven’t found any evidence there,” Gonzalez said. “We talked to Creighton’s family this weekend, and they are hopeful that he may still be alive.”
Helberto Moreira, an attorney who has represented Morales Vega and many other kidnappers, said his clients were trapped in an elaborate ruse and that Creighton is alive and faking his own death. “The public ministry line is that he was kidnapped and presumed murdered,” Moreira said. “The record shows that he was summoned to report (to the United States) before his disappearance and alleged kidnapping.” Because Creighton’s identity was revealed by the Department of Homeland Security and a warrant for his arrest was issued in the United States, Moreira argued that Creighton contrived the whole scheme to avoid justice. While Morales Vega, his mother, and a friend waited in Spain for extradition, the kidnappers in Costa Rica were sentenced to six months. Two police officers were released on probation.
Creighton’s corpse was still missing, so no murder charges could be filed. Nevertheless, they seemed to get away with such a serious crime easily. The lack of public information about the case, the silence of the 5dimes leadership and the government, the involvement of the police, who now got away with virtually nothing, the swirl of rumors about Creighton’s fate all combined to create the appearance of a conspiracy. And despite the relatively modest ransom of a million dollars, the “five dimes Tony” was worth much more, and much of that fortune was held in secret accounts. The imagination can go to many places if you let it. “Honestly, it’s a small country,” Howard says. “It doesn’t take a lot of money to bribe the entire government.”
In March 2019, the Costa Rica tabloid Diario Extra reported that they had obtained video of Creighton’s body being buried at a farm off Route 32. The video shows the body, wrapped in black plastic, being buried in a shallow grave. A source told Diario Extra , that when Creighton was held captive at his grandmother’s house, tied to a chair, he recognized one of his captors, a man who had once worked for Creighton as an employee at 5dimes. With no other choice, the kidnappers put a plastic bag over Creighton’s head and left him alone to suffocate. When he passed away, they wrapped him in black plastic and buried him at the farm.
However, when watching the video, there was no indication that the body belonged to Creighton. It was not even obvious that what was being buried was a body. The video may have been accurate, but it could also have been staged. And if the video was real, there was little reason for the source to provide it to the media without any specific information about where the body could be found. However, if the hoax theory was true, such an anonymous tip made sense. OIJ was quick to deny the report, stating unequivocally that they had not located Creighton and still did not know whether he was alive or dead. In late April, Morales Vega and his family were finally extradited back to Costa Rica to await trial.
Six months later, on Sept. 5, 2019, OIJ investigators searched a cemetery in the port city of Quepos, Puntarenas, about three hours from where Creighton was last seen alive. Investigators excavated a crypt in the cemetery and found, naturally, human remains. But OIJ investigators were acting on further confidential information that this was where the kidnappers had hidden Creighton’s body, so they intended to conduct a forensic examination of the remains to determine if they belonged to the missing bookie. The teeth found matched Creighton’s dental records, and the OIJ announced that “5dimes Tony” had finally been found. Shortly thereafter, ESPN confirmed the discovery with a quote from the U.S. State Department, “We can confirm that Costa Rica authorities have identified the remains of a U.S. citizen in Costa Rica.”
However, some sports bettors felt they had seen the film before. When David Purdum, the ESPN journalist who wrote the story, tweeted the State Department statement, it was met with responses of “he didn’t die,” “doesn’t indicate who,” and “yeah, how did Epstein ‘kill himself.” On the /r/sportsbook of Reddit, one user commented, “We should make it a tradition to find his body every year.”
The Costa Rica prosecutor’s office was also skeptical. Despite OIJ statement, prosecutors refused to confirm that the remains actually belonged to Creighton, saying they were waiting for a full forensic report, not just a dental examination. And Creighton’s wife and extended family (both of his parents are now deceased) asked for a DNA test. At the time of this writing, the results of any DNA tests had not yet been announced, and the question of whether “5dimes Tony” had been found was still uncertain. (in today’s realities, forensic forensic analysis, in which unidentified corpses are identified based on dental records, is considered an outdated method, author’s note)
5dimes continues to operate in Costa Rica and remains one of the most popular online bookmakers in the world. And after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act last May, 13 states now allow sports betting, and another 30 plus the District of Columbia are currently moving in that direction (many more at this point, author’s note). With each new state, thousands of Americans are betting on sports for the first time in their lives, and the image of the bookie and sports bettor as questionable personalities is melting away a bit. Bookmaking was once considered a crime that sent Americans to jail or exiled to small island states. Today, it is celebrated, and elected officials pose for photo ops with grandmas in luxury betting shops in places like Iowa and Arkansas. Since June 2018, Americans have already bet nearly ten billion dollars at newly licensed legal betting shops, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in profits and tax revenue.
Best legal betting sites and bookmaker companies from around the world are opening offices in the United States to take advantage. It’s a virtual gold rush, and everyone wants a piece of it. Even Sean Creighton’s home state of West Virginia now has a legal bookmakers. If Creighton is still alive somewhere, he’s probably watching what’s going on in his home state with a fair amount of surprise and resentment. On the other hand, he may be cheering for the continued growth and success of sports gambling. “If he were still alive, he’d still be running the 5dimes,” Howard said. – I have no doubt about that.
Perhaps Creighton faked his own death. Perhaps, after fifteen years of secret work, the Department of Homeland Security, which revealed his identity, forced him to disappear so they could start over somewhere. That would explain a lot of things. For example, why someone went to such great lengths to try to convince the police that he was dead, but was never able to produce a body or any physical evidence. Or why none of the dozen people arrested for his disappearance ever told what happened to him. It is also possible that the simplest explanation is also true: that the thieves who kidnapped Creighton also killed him, hid his body, and will never talk about it out loud. Either way, whether Sean Creighton lives or dies, “5dimes Tony” is gone forever.
“He was smart. He knew his business,” said one of Creighton’s clients when asked if he thought Creighton was alive or dead. “If you were going to bet on it, that bet would never be paid, because whether Tony lived or died, no one would ever see him again.”
What happened next ?
A certain amount of time has passed since this article was written. Sean Creighton’s body has been identified by forensic DNA-based identification. One of the arrests “floated” and began confessing, on the basis of which, most of the kidnappers have already been sentenced.
Who committed the crime?
Further investigation revealed that the murder was committed by a group of 12 people, including former police and forensic officers. It was essentially a family gang that included: Morales Vega (the leader), his mother Vega Aguirre, his girlfriend Solis Chavez, his grandmother Aguirre Leal (74) and a man named Vega Aguirre, Morales’ uncle. Other members of the gang were Martínez Chacón, Sanabria Abarca (a teacher), Sánchez Gamboa, Hiron López and Medrano Vargas (the last two were former police officers).
The leader of the gangsters, Morales Vega, received 65 years in prison. The others received similar sentences. The former police officers received 35 and 25 years, respectively. Another gang member, Kenny Jerry Ford Douman, cooperated with the investigation, repented, testified against all the others, and received a more lenient sentence than most of his accomplices, 33 years. These stories happen in the gambling business.