United Airlines Executive Still Missing, 100 Days Later

Filed Under: United

Let me start by acknowledging that this is a travel blog, and I don’t usually cover missing people stories. However, this is something I wrote about early on (given the airline industry connection), and which I’ve been following almost daily ever since. This is an incredibly mysterious situation.

Anyway, I know a lot of readers have been taking interest in this story as well, and I’ve received several questions about whether there are any updates to this situation. I figured I’d provide an update of what I know, since it has been a while.

A United Airlines executive has now been missing for over three months, and there’s still no sign of him. A few weeks after he went missing quite a few details emerged, but they only raised more questions, rather than providing answers. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much more made public since then.

Before we get into the latest, if you have any information about the case, contact the Elmhurst Police Department at (630) 530-3050.

The basics of United executive’s disappearance

49-year-old Jake Cefolia was United Airlines’ Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales (I say “was” because he was removed from United’s company leadership page in early October). He had worked at the airline since 2007, and lead a team of up to 725 people.

Unfortunately Cefolia was last seen on Thursday, August 6, and was reported missing on Saturday, August 8. His car was found at the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, not far from his home in Elmhurst. Police and volunteers searched that area, but didn’t find any clues.

Latest details about Cefolia’s disappearance

It has now been well over three months since Cefolia went missing, and there still has been no sign of him. There’s a Facebook group set up to help find Cefolia, which now has around 2,000 members, though there hasn’t been much activity in recent weeks

Here’s my understanding of the timeline of what we know, which has been made public through a combination of statements from the police, and details obtained through FOIA requests:

  • Elmhurst police was allegedly investigating Cefolia even before he went missing, though the details of that aren’t known, and he hasn’t been charged with anything; a city spokesperson said “we are unable to comment any further on this as it remains an active and ongoing investigation”
  • Cefolia’s ex-wife claimed he had previously fantasized about “getting off the grid”
  • Cefolia flew to San Francisco on August 4 to spend time with his girlfriend for her birthday, and the girlfriend claims she recently broke up with Cefolia, but he wanted to get back together; she said he didn’t make any concerning comments, but was drinking more than usual
  • Cefolia was allegedly seeing a second woman, who he communicated with on August 6; she didn’t hear from him on August 7, and he missed the dinner they were supposed to have together on August 8
  • On August 6, Cefolia returned from California, and had dinner with family at home, where he was allegedly intoxicated
  • On August 7, Cefolia missed a corporate event; however, he was seen on video getting gas at around 9:15AM (his last credit card transaction), and was also seen on video entering Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve (where he would often jog), wearing hiking boots and khakis
  • His car was parked in a gravel parking lot, and a search didn’t reveal anything suspicious — the car had golf clubs, a first aid kit, a sweatshirt, and a face mask
  • He didn’t take any traceable devices with him, as his cell phone and Apple Watch were both found at home
  • On August 8, Cefolia was reported missing
  • On August 10, Cefolia’s family hired a private investigator
  • Police and volunteers have carried out several searches of Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, and while some articles of clothing have been found, none of them were linked to Cefolia

A few more things to note:

  • We know nothing further about the criminal investigation that Cefolia was allegedly subject to prior to going missing
  • Cefolia was trying to sell his Elmhurst home, and it hit the market on June 16, had a price reduction on July 16, and had a further price reduction on August 4 (two days before he went missing); it ended up finally selling just over a week ago, on November 5
  • There’s video surveillance of Cefolia getting gas before going to Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, where his car was found; he appears to have spent nearly three minutes putting gas in his car, which suggests he was filling the tank, rather than just topping it off because he was running low (his car is the Range Rover that can be seen in the distance for the second half of the video)

Why am I writing about this?

Obviously this is a very sad and tough situation, and I can’t even imagine what Cefolia’s family is going through. My goal with this post isn’t to speculate (and I’d encourage others not to speculate either), but rather to increase exposure of this situation:

  • In the Facebook group dedicated to finding Cefolia, there’s shock about how little media attention this case has received
  • Surely someone knows more about what happened, so the more exposure this gets, the better the chance that someone might come forward

I’m certainly hoping for the best, because this is simply an awful situation…

Bottom line

A United Airlines executive has been missing for over three months now. He hasn’t been seen in person since August 6, though was caught on video getting gas, and then also entering Waterfall Glen Forest Reserve.

The updates that have been provided since his disappearance only make the situation even more confusing, given that they point to opposite conclusions. Hopefully we learn more soon. My thoughts are with Cefolia’s family and friends, especially as he has kids. I can’t imagine how tough it must be to deal with this uncertainty…

  1. Based on UAL’s past corruption (CEO caught and prosecuted for bribing head of Newark Port Authority), as well as ties to organized crime, I fear this man did not go along with ‘Cosa Nostra’s’ demands and met the same fate as Jimmy Hoffa.

    RIP Jake Cefolia. Good on you for standing up to the unions / mob

  2. The drunkenness, the multiple girlfriends, the rejection, the police investigation, and the talk of disappearing could all support any number of theories.

  3. The missing high profile executives are baffling. Here in DallasTx there is a search for a public accounting exec who was never seen again after a very early workout at the gym…530 am. This happened about 3 weeks ago. His luxury rental car was found. That in itself is amazing considering the size of the Dallas area.

  4. As much as it is reckless to speculate this is almost certainly a suicide. Only other practical answer is he wants to disappear but that is rarely pulled off successfully.

    And @MA – give it time you know it will hit Dateline, 48 Hours or 20/20 sooner or later.

  5. Most certainly with his erratic drinking behavior and numerous female companions he had issues in his personal life. I would not give much credence to the story of a suicide because of him filling his gas tank prior to his missing report. If he had any dealings with nefarious people he most likely met a fate of being murdered

  6. While I don’t know the Preserve mentioned is it possible an accident occurred and he just hasn’t been found? I’m sure they’ve scoured the area searching for him, but maybe a fall into water could be the case. So sorry for the family involved.

  7. Although I can’t divulge the details, he is supposedly/allegedly alive and in another country escaping some harrowing charges that was forthcoming.

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