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Disney Dream Ends in Federal Felonies

Thursday, February 19, 2015

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A federal jury has convicted a Texas man of scamming more than 50 investors out of about $14 million with tales of a fake Walt Disney theme park and resort project.

Thomas W. Lucas Jr., 40, of Plano, was found guilty Feb. 13 on seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI, according to authorities.

roller coaster
© iStock.com / cusoncom

Thomas W. Lucas Jr., a member of a Dallas-based real estate family, was said to have convinced investors that The Walt Disney Company had plans to open a theme park and resort in North Texas.

He faces 20 years in prison in the case. Sentencing will take place in the next three months, reports say, citing prosecutors.

A Texas-sized Tale

According to court documents, Lucas, a member of a Dallas-area real estate family, told potential investors from 2006 to 2010 that The Walt Disney Company planned to build “Frontier Disney Dallas-Fort Worth” in farmland in Celina.

The Burbank, CA-based company has denied rumors that it would build a theme park in the North Texas area. However, Lucas maintained that his information came from a secret source, prosecutors said.

By showing forged drawings, maps, site plans and other documents, Lucas duped more than 50 people into spending millions for land deals near the land supposedly purchased for the theme park and resort, according to prosecutors.

Vacations, Suits and Cigars

Lucas reportedly earned more than $448,000 in commissions and fees on the land deals related to the mythical theme park.

Lucas received consulting fees from Harry B. Lucas Company that represented percentages of the real estate transactions in which he was involved, the indictment noted. He worked for the company from 2004 to 2008.

London
© iStock.com / Matthewleedsdixon

Lucas spent more than $30,000 of commissions earned from the bogus theme park deal on a lavish vacation to London in 2007, according to a local newspaper.

Evidence presented in court showed that Lucas spent more than $30,000 on a lavish vacation to London in 2007, according to the Dallas Morning News. He also spent more than $20,000 on a suit, shirt, cigars and liquor, the newspaper reported.

Defense: Lucas was Scapegoat

At the trial, Lucas’ defense attorneys said that the investors were the “villains of the story” and that “Lucas was made the scapegoat.”

The investors had plans to flip the land for profit when the Disney announcement was made, court documents said. The fabricated announcement deadlines came and went, but Lucas was able to string the investors along, prosecutors said.

“Greed makes us blind…it’s born of selfishness,” attorney John Butrus told the jurors, according to the Dallas Morning News.

He said the investors had been willing to make risky bets on land options in which they owned the right to purchase the land but only for 60 or 90 days, the newspaper reported.

They missed warning signs and never stopped to ask questions, the attorney said.

   

Tagged categories: Criminal acts; Ethics; Fraud; Project Management

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