A fortune in gold, gleefully chucked into a Colorado Springs trash bin?
That's the claim of Earl Ray Jones, a Teller County man who says he converted $500,000 in life savings into gold in May and then threw it away - all to prevent his wife of 25 years from seeing a nickel in their pending divorce.
"Damn right I did," the 52-year-old former defense contractor huffed at a July deposition by the woman's stunned divorce attorney, John-Paul Lyle of Colorado Springs. In his sworn interview, Jones said he consigned the treasure to a Dumpster behind a Colorado Springs motel, according to a transcript obtained by The Gazette.
Bank records supplied by Jones prove that the money was converted to gold through a Phoenix, Ariz. precious metals dealer, lending credence to the hard-to-swallow tale, Lyle said.
"We say that when people are divorcing, they enter a state of temporary insanity," he said. "But on a scale of 1 to 10, this is my 10."
Whether the gold was actually tossed has yet to be established. Jones claimed during the deposition there were no witnesses and that he took no steps to document the disposal.
Truth or fiction, Jones' claim marks the latest volley in a marriage strained by persistent money squabbles, bitter reprisals and violence.
Jones is facing a Nov. 4 sentencing in Teller County for menacing after he beat up his wife and held her captive in their Divide home during a March fight over finances. April Jones filed for divorce three weeks after the assault. Facing the loss of his government security clearance, Jones resigned his $82,000-a-year job at Exelis, a Colorado Springs contractor, court records show.
He has been held at the Teller County jail pending sentencing since his conviction at a September trial, court records show.
His estranged wife was left "destitute" by the marriage's breakup and is living with a relative in Virginia, Lyle said.
A former teacher, she is unable to work because of the lingering effects of her injuries, including a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome.
Jones first made his claim that he disposed of savings at a June divorce hearing in which El Paso County Magistrate D. Denise Peacock ordered that he pay his estranged wife $3,000 a month - money the woman hasn't received.
At the sworn deposition in July, Jones said he threw the gold - a mix of coins and gold bars - into a trash bin at Value Place, 5555 Airport Road, a weekly rate motel that Jones called home after vacating the couple's Divide home.
Jones told Lyle he wanted to withdraw the money in cash, but said that bank tellers wouldn't or couldn't comply.
"If that would have been an option, I would have been walking around giving people $100 bills," Jones said, according to the transcript.
So instead, Jones said he raided the couple's retirement and investment accounts and converted them into gold coins and gold bars through Phoenix-based CMI Gold and Silver. Although the company does not divulge details about its customers, a representative said that under average gold prices in May, a half-million dollars would buy about 22 pounds of gold. Bank documents establish that the transfer to CMI occurred, according to Lyle, but only Jones can vouch for what he claims happened next.
After drinking wine and eating "good food," Lyle said he went out to the Dumpster and pitched the gold. He later clarified he made several return trips, tossing gold each time a new shipments arrived in the mail.
Five months later, recovering the gold would require a bit more effort.
The hotel Dumpster is serviced by Waste Connections of Colorado Springs. The company delivers trash to its Fountain landfill, which accepts up to 30,000 tons of trash during an average month, said Ken Manzo, district manager.
Each load is dumped, compacted with heavy machinery and covered with dirt - creating an even surface for new layers of trash that arrive by the ton.
"I would have rather dug a hole in the backyard," said Manzo, who said surveillance cameras and fences keep salvagers at bay.
Said Rick DiPaiva, who manages the company's trash hauling operation: "I didn't have any drivers walking off the job with a smile in May." Given the rumble of the truck's engine and noise involved in overturning a metal Dumpster, a driver would not have noticed anything unusual, he said.
If the gold were found at the landfill, it would probably generate a court battle.
Under a typical waste disposal contract, anything sent to a landfill is considered the landfill's property, according to Waste Management of Colorado Springs.
In the case of a pending divorce, however, a husband couldn't lawfully dispose of his wife's assets, and she may be legally entitled to claim her share should the missing assets be found, said Colorado Springs attorney Phil Dubois, who has no ties to the case.
That's if anyone believes the gold was actually thrown away, of course.
"Based on normal human conduct, one would believe that it's out there somewhere, and that he knows where it is," Dubois said.