Some people may call it a Mickey Mouse scheme, but a Texas con artist has been sentenced to 17.5 years in prison for convincing real estate investors that a Disney frontier park was in the works outside Dallas.
Thomas W. Lucas Jr., 35, sold $60 million in land to more than 100 investors between 2006 and 2010, earning $448,000 in commissions. Lucas claimed he had an inside source at Disney and forged Disney documents and maps to support his scheme about a proposed theme park, prosecutors said.
Many of the investors purchased option contracts in which they controlled the land for a short time period, waiting for land prices to skyrocket, and lost their money if they didn’t pay by the due date.
Lucas held more than 100 sales presentations to potential targets that included elaborate illustrations of downtown Dallas with Mickey Mouse ears on the Reunion Tower and slides of Frontier Disney rides that included “Houston We Have a Problem” and “Texas Thunder Mountain Railroad,” according to testimony by former employees of Lucas. One presentation was to the Indianapolis Colts NFL team.
Disney executive Jay Rasulo, whose name was used in some of Lucas’s fake documents, testified during the trial that there was never a plan to build a Disney park in Texas and that “it wouldn’t make sense” because it would draw customers away from parks in California and Florida.
Prosecutors learned that Lucas took a luxurious $37,000 trip to London, complete with a chauffeur, plush hotels, high-end dining and expensive shopping.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour in finding Lucas guilty of seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to an FBI agent. The stiff sentence was at the top of the sentencing guidelines. Lucas was also ordered to pay $8.4 million in restitution.
“I see no remorse whatsoever,” U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant said in handing down the sentence Sept. 1, adding that Lucas “caused a lot of damage to a lot of people.”