This article was last modified on August 28, 2019.

Jewel Thieves John Allen Seybold (1922-2005) and Ruth Dell

According to his grave stone, John Allen Seybold was born June 11, 1923. However, on a marriage certificate, he gives his birth as June 17, 1922. The latter is more likely — a sister was born in April 1923 (confirmed by record), making the June 1923 date impossible. Either way, he was born in Cleveland and his parents were Alexander Archie Seybold and Anna Chikosh (or Chekos), both Hungarian/Romania Jews. This union produced four children: Alexander, John, Joseph and Ruth.

1930: The Seybold family lived at 2555 West 7th Street, Cleveland. Alexander was a tinner and owned his own shop. According to the census, Alexander and Anna spoke “Magyar” (the Hungarian language) at home. Most of the Hungarian immigrants to America settled down on the coastline of Lake Erie and in Cleveland, particularly along Buckeye Road, a neighborhood once nicknamed Little Hungary, which at one time boasted the largest population of Hungarians outside Budapest. Though most of the Hungarians were Catholic, there was a sizable Jewish population, as well. In fact, the first congregation of Hungarian Jews in the United States was “B’nai Jeshurum,” founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1866.

Allegedly, at the age of 9, John Seybold won his first award at the Ohio State Fair for his artistic ability.

Alexander and Anna Seybold were separated some time between 1930 and 1940.

1940: Lived at 5605 Franklin Boulevard with his father.

During World War II, Seybold served in the Air Force in the Pacific Theater, attaining the rank of private first class. He allegedly earned the Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Soldier’s Medal.

1944: was stationed at Baer Field, Indiana. This base only existed between 1941 and 1945, later becoming the Fort Wayne airport. During wartime, over 100,000 military personnel served out of Baer Field and its more than 100 structures. The principal units at the installation were the First Troop Carrier Group and the 45th Army Air Force Base Unit.

Seybold would later claim he was involved in the engineering of the B-52, and say he was present during nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll. Despite being in the Air Force, he did not take pilot training until after the war ended.

At some point in his youth, Seybold allegedly studied at both Cleveland Art School and the Chicago Institute of Art.

Seybold divorced January 27, 1944. The name of this first wife I don’t know, but they had a child: Roberta Joan Seybold.

On February 5, 1944, only a week after his divorce, Seybold married a second time to Marie Melvin of Ohio in Fort Wayne (possibly on base). The officiant was minister Charles H. Smith. Marie’s parents were switchman Herbert Melvin and Margaret Sutherin of Cleveland.

September 8, 1963: Tenuta’s Town House in Kenosha (3322 Sheridan Road) was burglarized and a safe containing $6,000 was taken.

September 12, 1963: Brandt’s Jewelry in Racine was robbed for $25,000. Later accused of the crime were Seybold, Ruth DelVecchio and George Spies.

On October 11, 1963, John Allen Seybold and others robbed the Lebolt Jewelry store in the Mayfair Shopping Center in Milwaukee county. Manager W. Milton Mahncke told the press he and his employees were forced into a back room by three men with pistols. Employee Raymond Kroenig stepped on a hidden alarm, which was silent in the building but notified police. Outside the jewelry store, and while Seybold and his accomplices were escaping, an exchange of gunfire took place in which the Seybold and Wauwatosa police officer Ronald C. Harrison were shot. Immediately arrested were Seybold, Stanley Adams, and Ruth DelVecchio (who strangely claimed to be Seybold’s sister). From the Milwaukee County General Hospital, Seybold was treated for a bullet wound to the neck and told the press, “He is one of the bravest men I’ve ever seen,” referring to Harrison. “He has a lot of heart. He acted far above the way anyone would have expected him to act. If anyone has value for a good man, that’s a good man right there. There were a couple of guns in plain sight, but he still resisted and managed to hit me. He hit me while i was running. If you don’t make a hero out of this guy, you don’t have any heroes, I’m telling you.”

On October 12, 1963, a member of the Wauwatosa police department (Harrison?) appeared at the office of the district attorney of Milwaukee county and signed two complaints against car salesman John Belcher; following the signing of the complaints, the warrants were issued; the two complaints remained in the office of the clerk of courts and the warrants were delivered to and taken by Milwaukee county law enforcement officers; thereafter application was made to the United States district court for the Eastern district of Wisconsin for issuance of a fugitive warrant which was issued; a short time later, Belcher, his wife Janice, and Walter W. Wheeler were taken into custody by federal officers in North Hollywood, California.

On October 23, 1963, Seybold complained to the state supreme court that his $75,000 bond was excessive, and in response it was lowered to $25,000.

On the morning of November 5, 1963, Seybold was brought to Racine to be charged with the robbery of Brandt’s Jewelry. District Attorney John Peyton asked for $50,000 bond. If bond was posted, Seybold still awaited warrants in Kenosha, Skokie and Indiana.

In February 1964, the FBI looked into the possibility that Louis Fazio was involved with the robbery of the Lebolt Jewelry store at the Mayfair mall. A woman from Illinois (presumably Ruth “Dell” DelVecchio) was caught immediately after the robbery, and she had been known to associate with Fazio, so they suspected he might have helped “case” the store.

April 1964: Seybold and Dell were married in Milwaukee County Jail, with a county judge officiating and a defense attorney giving away the bride.

May 11, 1964: At trial in Milwaukee, Seybold (acting as his own attorney) asked for a change of venue. He said, “I don’t think the district attorney’s office is qualified to prosecute this case.” Seybold alleged that he had “collaborated with the district attorney’s office in a conspiracy to destroy the John Doe.” He had allegedly been asked to lie to Judge John Coffey by DA William McCauley and Hugh O’Connell. This was dismissed as “balderdash.” The jury was then taken to the scene of the crime, with Seybold in handcuffs. Seybold again objected, noting, “The inference is that we’re guilty. This is the inference the jury will get. I want a mistrial.” Judge Carl Daley said such precautions were necessary. When Seybold tried to object again, he said, “Your honor…” but was cut off with a “Shut up!” Seybold turned to the stenographer and said, “I want the record to show that you said shut up to a lawyer.” “Let the record so show,” replied Daley.

May 13, 1964: During the testimony of one of the state’s witnesses, Attorney Dominic Frinzi, representing John Belcher, requested a five-minute conference because of a “new development.” After this conference the following occurred: Frinzi said, “Your Honor, before the jury returns, on behalf of the defendant John Belcher, at this time I’d like to beg leave of the court to withdraw our plea of not guilty on both counts, the robbery armed, and the attempted murder; and at this time we are prepared to enter a plea of guilty on both counts.” Following Belcher’s lead, all six defendants in the Mayfair Mall robbery changed their verdicts from not guilty to guilty, and sentenced were handed down the same day. Two consecutive twenty year sentences were imposed upon Seybold in the Circuit Court of Milwaukee County for armed robbery and attempted murder. 36-year old Ruth Dell was given two years of probation, with ten years in prison stayed. Her light sentence would turn out to be a mistake. A third member of the group, 53-year old Walter H. Wheeler of Detroit, received a single 20-year sentence. John Belcher (29) of Springfield received the same sentence as Seybold, and Belcher’s wife Janice (22) received the same sentence as Ruth Dell. George H. Spies (45) of Chicago received 30 years in prison.

On the morning of December 11, 1964, a Racine jewelry store was robbed of $10,000 worth of merchandise. David Frederick, 25, was caught shortly after the crime. Later that same day police nabbed Ruth Dell and Rodney Gumnow after a chase through Lake County, Illinois that involved squads from Libertyville, Mundelein, Lake Forest and Deerfield. Held at Waukegan, bond was set at $15,000 for Dell and Gumnow. Two others involved were still unidentified and on the loose after the first day.

March 1966: Ruth Dell was sentenced to serve 20 years in Taycheedah for violating her probation.

April 27, 1966: Seybold was brought from prison to Kenosha County court before Judge Urban Zievers. Seybold was charged with burglarizing Tenuta’s Town House in 1963. Acting as his own attorney, he pleaded not guilty. A preliminary hearing was set for May, and Seybold was driven back to Waupun.

Around June 2, 1966, Seybold had his day in court in Kenosha. Acting as his own attorney, he asked that the charges be dismissed on the grounds that he was illegally searched. Judge Zievers agreed; Seybold had been approached by police in Illinois for illegally parking. The car’s trunk was opened to reveal the Tenuta’s safe. Seybold was not armed and not wanted for any crime at that time (besides the parking), so the police had no reason to inspect the trunk. Even District Attorney Molinaro agreed that this was “a classic example of illegal search.” Regardless, Seybold was still serving a long prison sentence, so this dropped charge did little good.

Seybold filed an action on July 26, 1966, seeking damages of $511,000 under the Civil Rights Act.

Seybold filed an action August 1, 1966, where he sought damages of $320,000 from a Wheeling, Illinois police officer under the Civil Rights Act. It was dismissed on September 21, 1967 due to improper venue.

Seybold filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on August 4, 1966 challenging the legality of two consecutive twenty year sentences. The petition was denied on October 26, 1966.

Seybold filed an action January 4, 1967 (dismissed the same day), where he attempted to set forth a copyright infringement cause of action but alleged that defendant (a man named Wolke) was using plaintiff’s copyrighted article under an agreement with plaintiff which he failed to perform.

Seybold was in Sheboygan August 25 and 26, 1970 because of a lawsuit he filed against attorney Jack Kalman. Seybold had hired Kalman to be a go-between and handle communications with his wife, Ruth Dell (who was in another prison). Not long after, Dell told Kalman she did not wish to have any contact with Seybold. This lead to Seybold suing for “loss of consortium.” A 12-person jury found this to be silly and ruled in favor of Kalman.

On August 7, 1972, Seybold was denied a motion to get a new trial by Judge Max Raskin. As part of his motion, Seybold claimed that in 1964, attorney Hugh O’Connell and bail bondsman Barnett W. Franks were planning to murder Judge John L. Coffey, and asked Seybold where they could hire a gunman. Franks and O’Connell denied the accusation (of course), though Seybold passed a polygraph test and Coffey said he felt such a plot was possible. Judge Raskin was not convinced, calling the whole thing a “bizarre fantasy,” and threw it out.

In the fall of 1973, the media spoke with Seybold and he explained his life as follows: “I became a jewel thief in 1958. I grossed about $5 million in loot until 1963. That’s when I was captured following a gun fight in an attempted $100,000 jewel robbery at the Mayfair shopping center in Milwaukee. I hated every minute of that Jekyll-Hyde existence. Now I’m happy only with art.”

Seybold reflected on his time at Fox Lake, and how he was offered the post of executive editor of the prison’s newspaper, Solar Screen. “I was given carte blanche, probably because when something is the very worst it can’t do anything but stay that way or get better. I worked 15 hours a day, innovated new techniques, used color, ran the press in the manner I chose and finally came out with a holiday issue last Christmas. Beginning in January, I rolled into one of the first issues to win some of my approval and by February, favorable mail increased appreciably. Needless to say, inmates and staff are rather proud of the Solar Screen now.”

On November 2, 1973, Seybold was serving his time at the minimum security Thompson Prison Camp in Deerfield (near Madison). He requested permission to attend synagogue, and his request was granted. However, he walked off with no intentions of returning. In early December, Seybold was picked up as far away as Grand Rapids, Michigan when he was caught shoplifting.

On February 20, 1975, the Wisconsin Senate Republicans dedicated their new caucus room. In a place of honor was a portrait of President Gerald Ford painted by John Seybold (who was not invited). Around the same time, Seybold painted a portrait of Betty Ford and was able to get it to her through Representative Les Aspin (1938-1995). She responded favorably in a letter to Aspin on March 13, which Aspin forwarded on to Seybold on April 9. Aspin added that he felt it was a “superb portrait.”

An April 1975 article in Fond du Lac claimed that Seybold had three sons, three grandchildren and a wife. This same article made the preposterous claim that he was serving two 20-year sentences because he asked the judge if he could serve his wife’s term. (No, you cannot serve prison time for other people.) If he had three sons (I have no idea), they were from a previous wife.

On June 28, 1985, an employee of Schultz Brothers in Walworth County called in a shoplifting complaint, reporting that a man walked out with camera equipment. Not long after, police caught John Seybold and found the equipment in his vehicle along with $3,500 worth of goods reported missing from throughout the county. He was released on $1,000 cash bond.

December 4, 1985: $55,000 was stolen from a gift shop in Techny, Illinois (now within the border of Northbrook).

April 7, 1986: A van from Creative Manufacturing and Imports was run off the road on Route 176 in Libertyville shortly after an expo at the O’Hare Exposition Center in Rosemont. Two men in ski masks carrying .45s forced the occupants out and took off in the van, which carried nearly $2,000,000 in jewels and $50,000 in cash. The company informed police that none of their inventory was insured. The FBI also became involved in the case because the same firm was the victim of robbery in February, and the possibility existed that the two crimes were related. Later the same day, the jewelry van was found abandoned (without the jewels inside) and the original vehicle the crooks were driving was torched in rural Lake County. The robbers had even scratched off the VIN number on the car. The jewelry employees stranded in the holdup were: Rubin Rodriguez, Amy Neshki, Shirley Sheung and Michael Sheung.

June 1986: $60,000 was stolen from a van in New York. This same month, there was an attempted jewel robbery in New Jersey.

February 16, 1987: $320,000 in ivory, gold and jewels were stolen from a closet at an Olympia resort trade show in Oconomowoc. Security had locked the jewels in the closet after the end of the day’s show, and when they made their rounds 1:15am, discovered them missing. The crooks had gone into an adjacent room and cut a 3 foot by 2 foot hole in the wall — they never had to get past the security at all, just bust through an inch of plaster. Over 130 vendors had items for sale at the show, but only two were stored in that particular closet: vendors Joginder Singh Chadha and Michael Cheung. By coincidence, Cheung was one of the vendors run off the road less than a year earlier. And again, the jewels were not insured. Chadha told the press, “They provided security, so we didn’t need insurance.” (With Michael Cheung’s firm hit three times within a year, losing over one million dollars of jewels, I would personally consider him a suspect!)

April 1987: $150,000 of jewelry was stolen from a parked car in Ohio.

In (July?) 1987, John A. Seybold was indicted by a federal grand jury on several counts stemming from his involvement with the “Dell Organization” in a series of jewelry thefts. The Dell Organization was allegedly run by Seybold’s ex-wife, Ruth Dell, and included her son Brian Dell and at least three other people: Leslie Learned, Anthony Woodward and Carl Kelly. Seybold pleaded guilty to two counts in the indictment: robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, and interstate transportation of stolen goods. On December 3, 1987, Seybold was sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment and five years’ probation.

On July 27, 1989, while Seybold was serving his twelve-year sentence in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, the government filed a second indictment against him and his alleged co-conspirators. Seven of the eighteen counts in the indictment were directed at either subgroups that included Seybold or named Seybold alone, including the first two counts: (1) conspiracy to conduct the affairs of the Dell Organization through a pattern of racketeering activity, and (2) actually conducting the affairs of the Dell Organization through a pattern of racketeering activity. The principal evidence relied upon by the government was a set of approximately 200 audio tapes (“the tapes”). According to the government, only one-third of the tapes implicated Seybold.

Seybold was transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), in Chicago, to facilitate the prosecution. On August 31, 1989, Seybold was arraigned in federal district court and pleaded not guilty to all charges. Seybold made it clear that he wished to proceed pro se. The court appointed standby counsel despite Seybold’s insistence that he did not want or need any legal assistance. Nonetheless, on October 6, 1989, Seybold and his standby counsel appeared at a status hearing, and Seybold informed the court that they had worked out a cooperative arrangement: “Well, as [standby counsel] said to you and as I agree or affirm his position, he said he would be glad to sit by and give me whatever advice I require. There are certain things that I will have to have done that he is willing to do…”

At this hearing, the court also ordered the prosecutor to turn over certain discovery materials, including the tapes, to standby counsel, who was to relay the information to Seybold. Seybold objected to this arrangement and asked that the materials be delivered directly to him, but the court insisted the discovery materials be delivered to standby counsel.

By October 24, 1989, the prosecutor had delivered a complete set of tapes to an attorney representing one of Seybold’s co-defendants. This attorney had been designated to act for all the defendants for purposes of channeling discovery material from the prosecutor. At a status hearing on November 29, 1989, Seybold informed the court that he still had not had access to the tapes. The court suggested to standby counsel that he make arrangements to obtain the tapes from the co-defendants’ representative and deliver them to Seybold. By January 26, 1990, a complete set of transcripts of the tapes had also been delivered to the co-defendants’ representative. However, on that day, Seybold’s standby counsel filed a motion on behalf of Seybold and two of his co-defendants, each of whom was detained at the MCC, stating that the MCC was not allowing counsel to take audiotapes or listening equipment into the MCC. Instead, the MCC required use of its own storage facilities and listening equipment that could be used if the government would deliver tapes to the MCC. The motion requested the court to enter a formal order directing the prosecutor to provide a copy of the tapes directly to the MCC. At a status hearing that day, January 26, 1990, the court declined to enter a formal order, but directed the co-defendants’ representative to give the prosecutor all the tapes that the attorneys had finished listening to so that they could be delivered to the MCC.

Another status hearing was held on February 8, 1990. Seybold was not present, but the court held the hearing in his absence because his standby counsel was present. The court was informed that the co-defendants’ representative had given back to the prosecutor a portion of the tapes, and that those tapes were in the process of being transferred to the MCC. Trial was set for April 18, 1990. At a status hearing on March 29, 1990, Seybold acknowledged access to forty of the tapes but complained that the remainder had not yet been made available to him. On April 12, 1990, Seybold’s standby counsel filed a motion on behalf of Seybold requesting that the trial be continued because the complete set of tapes or transcripts had been delivered on April 8, which was too late to allow proper preparation for the scheduled April 18 trial. The next scheduled status hearing, scheduled for April 13, was continued to April 17 upon Seybold’s motion to continue for religious reasons.

At a status hearing on the morning of April 17, 1990, Seybold informed the court that he wished to change his plea in connection with a plea agreement, which was being prepared. By this time, all of his co-defendants had already pleaded guilty. He was facing trial by himself with perhaps some of his co-defendants as opposing witnesses. That afternoon, the parties filed with the court a written plea agreement in which Seybold agreed to plead guilty to Count Two of the indictment (the substantive RICO violation), and the government agreed to dismiss the remaining counts pending against Seybold. After a lengthy examination of Seybold, the court accepted Seybold’s guilty plea. On July 16, 1990, the court sentenced Seybold to eighteen years’ imprisonment for the RICO violation.

Died February 2, 2005. Seybold is buried in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Will County, Illinois.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

6 Responses to “Jewel Thieves John Allen Seybold (1922-2005) and Ruth Dell”

  1. Scott Says:

    Gavin, what are your thoughts on the claim that Seybold made later in his life that he wrote the book “The Home Invaders” and Frank Hohimer was just a pen name he used? That book would be made into a movie by Michael Mann called Thief. People believe it even though it is completely false. Frank Hobimer was on the FBI top 10 list in the late 60s and came from a completely different cultural background then Seybold. If you google Hohimer’s name, it is always linked to Seybold bc of the claim Seybold made a couple years before he died. It was an article about elderly prisoners. Article link is below

  2. gavin Says:

    I wasn’t aware that Seybold ever claimed to be Hohimer. But I’m very much aware that people think they’re the same person when they’re not. Seybold was in prison while Hohimer was out on his crime spree and ended up killing Valerie Percy (I think that was her name, and she was like a senator’s daughter or something). If Seybold truly claimed to be the author of the Hohimer book, he’s either a) nuts or b) telling the truth, and chose the stupidest possible pen name. I’d more likely go with a. Seybold’s story is fascinating on its own, but I’m fairly certain that he liked to exaggerate his own biography.

  3. Scott Says:

    Gavin, check out the above link where he claims it. He also claimed to be writing another book. I knew it was a lie from the beginning. The original article had a picture of the elder Seybold but I can’t find it. Pictures look nothing alike. I read The Home Invaders and Hohimer was a Hillbilly from Southern Illinois while Seybold was a Jewish guy from Cleveland. Ages do no match up either. Seybold was older. Hohimer worked directly for Leo Rugendorf who worked for Milwaukee Phil. I don’t think Seybold was that connected but he obviously had at least some connections. Not sure why so many are claiming they are the same people. Hohimer was a Mamés suspect in the Percy killing, was on the top 10 most wanted list and was the subject of numerous articles from the 1960s and 1970s. He was obviously more than just a pen name!! It wouldn’t surprise me if they were both in jail together in the 1970s and that was where Seybold got the idea. No idea what happened to Hohimer. He turned state evidence and disappeared. Have been trying to find out if he is still alive or dead. I believe he is dead bc he would be about 90 now. I also talked to a relative who said he passed away not to long ago.

  4. Drew Hunkins Says:

    Fantastic local outlaw history! Thanks for posting!

  5. Casey Says:

    During WWII, the Air Force didn’t exist yet. It would have been the Army Air Corps. Air Force birthday is September 18, 1947.

  6. gavin Says:

    It’s a valid distinction. My grandfather was in the Army Air Corps during WWII and the newspapers regularly called it the “air force,” but strictly speaking you are quite correct.

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