EVENTUALLY CRIME DOESNT PAY Disney story was fantasy
Posted on 09/03/2015 | About Texas
Thomas Lucas Jr was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison this week for a scheme that swindled US $20 million from investors whom he convinced to buy land in north Texas, based on a false claim that Disney was building a theme park there.
The 35-year old Texas man must also pay $8.4million in restitution.
Lucas was convicted on seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI in February. US District Judge Amos Mazzant said that he decided to sentence Lucas on the top side of the sentencing guidelines because he “caused a lot of damage to a lot of people” and appeared to have “no remorse whatsoever”.
Investors said Lucas showed them fake and forged artist sketches, maps, site plans and other documents related to 'Frontier Disney Dallas-Fort Worth' to dupe them.
Court documents show that between 2006 and 2010, Lucas convinced 280 investors to invest $20 million in land in the area - $450,000 of which he pocketed. About 60 more investors bought options to invest in the land and lost the $8 million they invested. The investors planned to flip the land to developers at a profit when the Disney announcement was made.
Numerous partnerships, joint ventures and limited liability companies were set up to begin acquiring land in the area.
The Walt Disney Co. repeatedly denied rumors that it planned to build a theme park in north Texas. However, Lucas told potential investors that a secret source tipped him off about the theme park. Prosecutors said the identity of Lucas' secret source varied depending on whom he spoke to — and when.
They said he identified the person as a childhood or lifelong friend in some versions of his story.
In other accounts he described the individual as a friend of a friend or someone he graduated high school with. When the FBI questioned Lucas about the source in 2013, he gave agents the name of a dead man, named Michael Watson Sr., prosecutors said.
They said Lucas met the man at a north Texas methadone rehab clinic where the two were receiving treatment. Watson was a Hurricane Katrina transplant who worked odd jobs before committing suicide in 2012.
Defense attorneys argued the investors were greedy and used Lucas as a scapegoat for their bad deals and his father, who was the only defense witness called to testify, said his son had his own money in the deals.
That clearly didn’t cut him any slack with the judge or jury.
Evidence presented in court in February showed that Lucas spent $37,000 on a London vacation in 2007, $14,000 on a suit and shirt and $8,400 cigars and liquor.
Investors realized the Disney resort was fictional when Lucas's four-year plan for the land never materialized, though they expected the theme park to open in 2010.
Lucas was indicted in 2013 and was convicted on all charges in February.