SHERMAN, Texas (CN) – A Texan was sentenced Tuesday to 17½ years in federal prison for a $60 million Disney amusement park scam despite a last-minute attempt to blame it on his dead uncle.
Thomas W. Lucas Jr., 35, of Plano, was sentenced to 210 months in prison for seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement to federal agents. He was ordered to pay $8.5 million in restitution and was immediately taken into custody by federal marshals. A jury convicted him in February .
Lucas raised $60 million from more than 100 investors from 2006 to 2010, according to a September 2013 criminal information. He claimed he had inside information on Walt Disney resorts and theme parks planned for the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“According to Lucas, the Disney Resort and Theme Park was originally set to be called, ‘The King Ranch Project,’ but that changed in 2007 to ‘Frontier Disney DFW,’ both of which were completely fabricated,” prosecutors said Tuesday.
“Disney witnesses, including Disney’s then-chairman of parks and resorts and executive assistants, testified at the trial that the information presented to investors by Lucas was not authentic and that Disney never had any intentions of opening a Disney resort and theme park in North Texas at any time.”
Lucas schemed to defraud two kinds of investors: those who invested in options to buy land near the phony theme park and those who actually bought land near the property.
“While information presented in court showed tens of millions of dollars more were raised based on Lucas’s fraudulent Disney information, the value of the land purchased was subtracted to determine the overall loss amount of approximately $20 million,” prosecutors said. “The 65 investors that invested in options to purchase land lost all of their money invested, which was slightly over $8 million, and received no interest in land.”
Lucas made $450,000 in fees and commissions from the land deals that closed. When confronted by federal agents, Lucas blamed the scheme on a man he met at a methadone treatment clinic, who died.
Lucas’ attorney, Marlo Cadeddu in Dallas, filed a motion for new trial the day before sentencing. She wrote that Lucas deserves a new trial due to evidence that emerged after the May 5 death of his uncle, Harry B. “Beau” Lucas Jr.
Cadeddu wrote that the evidence “tends to point to” his uncle as the “architect” of the scheme. She claims that financial records indicate Beau Lucas authorized $63,000 in wire transfers to government witness Jon F. Concak.
“These transfers were made without the knowledge of the other partners and in return, Mr. Concak apparently executed notes reflecting that the payments were ‘loans,'” according to the 9-page motion . “Mr. Concak has never made a single payment on these unauthorized ‘loans’ of partnership funds by Beau Lucas.”
Caddue claimed that $740,000 is missing from other entities that Beau Lucas controlled.
“This newly discovered information gives credence to such a theory of defense in that it demonstrates Beau Lucas’s motivation to deflect attention from himself and inculpate his nephew (i.e. to avoid prosecution himself, in which effort he was entirely successful) and gives Beau Lucas a motive to defraud and solicit investor funds in order to maintain a source of funds over which he had sole, unimpeded control,” the motion stated. “The fact that a primary source of information used in prosecuting Thomas Lucas Jr. was himself apparently taking monies out of the partnerships without authorization or notification to other partners, combined with his unauthorized ‘loans’ of partnership funds to a key government trial witness are certainly material to a determination of whether Thomas Lucas Jr. committed the offenses with which he is charged.”
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