For four years, beginning in 2006, Lucas scammed and defrauded more than 250 investors by claiming he had inside information about The Walt Disney Company’s plans to build a brand-new resort theme park like the Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, in a rural area 50 miles north of Dallas, Texas. He offered potential investors a chance to strike it rich before Disney arrived in North Texas by giving them purchase options to buy land near where the new Resort would soon be located.

According to the FBI, “the 65 investors who purchased options lost every cent they invested—more than $8 million. Some investors, including Lucas’ father and uncle in the family real estate business, purchased land outright, believing the Disney story.”

“There was not one grain of truth in Lucas’ presentations,” Special Agent Velasquez said, “but his pitch was very elaborate, and it fooled a lot of people. He duped his own family.”

“Lucas claimed to have letters between Disney and a management firm saying that the company had acquired enough land to make the deal happen. He included the letters—complete with forged Disney officials’ signatures—in his presentations to investors, along with detailed maps, concept plans, and images that were later discovered to be lifted from the internet, some from Disney websites.

According to Lucas, Disney planned to make the big announcement about the Resort at a Dallas Cowboys football game on Thanksgiving in 2006. When that didn’t happen, he told investors there were delays. “Then the announcement was going to be Super Bowl 2007, 2008. Then it was Fourth of July at the Beijing Olympic games,” Velasquez said. “He was just trying to keep investors and potential investors on the hook.”

Disney discrimination

Credit: Disney

Lucas kept up the scheme for more than four years. However, investors became suspicious as “delays” in Disney’s plans kept the supposed project from coming to fruition. Finally, one of the investigators filed a complaint with the FBI.

In 2014, Lucas was indicted by a federal grand jury. He was charged with seven counts of wire fraud and one count of lying to the FBI, and in September 2015, following a jury trial, the 35-year-old Lucas was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.

“That was a stiff sentence for a white-collar crime,” Velasquez noted, “but he defrauded a lot of people and showed no remorse.”

Would you have fallen into this Disney relocation trap if Lucas approached you? Let us know in the comments.