Plans for a new Disney Park in North Texas led to federal charges and resulted in millions lost and years of jail time.
A man in with an inside track at Disney and secret knowledge about Disney’s plans to branch out in the Lone Star State, finally building its first theme park resort in the South, helped would-be investors by selling them land near the location of the new Disney park.
Well, that’s what he told them anyway.
Thomas W. Lucas, Jr. must have gotten his mad skills as a salesman from his family. Perhaps it was in his genes. It’s completely plausible; after all, Lucas’s relatives made up a prominent real estate family in the Dallas, Texas, area.
Lucas ultimately raised millions of dollars by selling land near the location of Disney’s new park, duping investors into pouring millions of dollars into purchases in two counties north of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Lucas pitched his story to would-be investors, telling them that he had inside information, thanks to a secret source who tipped him off about Resort in . But Lucas never identified his so-called “ insider,” even while under oath in court.‘s plans to develop a
Eventually, after the FBI got involved, Lucas finally told authorities the name of his informant: Michael Watson, Sr.
But the name was just another part of Lucas’s deceptive practices; it was the name of a man who was deceased. Federal authorities said that the man Lucas named was a transplant from Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Lucas had met him in a drug rehab facility where both men were being treated.
Lucas fabricated the story about in an effort to dupe investors into pouring millions of dollars into ‘s plans in the purchases in Collin County and Denton County in . What was in it for him? The commission from each of the purchases.
Those potential investors who were tricked by Lucas’s lies say they paid inflated prices for Resort in . in the two Texas counties because they believed–per Lucas’s account–that the would become prime real estate once made its formal announcement about plans to develop a
They overpaid for the because they fully intended to flip the to developers and make a sizable return on their investments. But there would be no such return, and the only one to profit was Thomas Lucas.
According to investors who bought up Resort: “Frontier Dallas- .” in the two counties, Lucas was elaborate in his plans to deceive them. He produced dummy artist sketches–some forged and some fake, as well as maps of the area, site plans, and other “formal” documents. He even gave them the name of ‘s new -based
It was all very believable.
But announcements from The never materialized, though rumors of Mickey taking up residence in the have circulated since the early 2000s. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking. Perhaps it’s the practice of speaking things into being.
Either way, a The ‘s crystal ball. has yet to appear in
Thomas Lucas was the first person to face trial on charges of attempting to make financial gains from those rumors. He was indicted and charged with seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI about the scam he undertook.
According to prosecutors, over a period of four years, Lucas was able to defraud more than 50 different investors out of close to $14 million. He defrauded a former plastic surgeon in Dallas, attorneys in Dallas, a wealthy Chinese man in Hong Kong, and others across the .
Bill Thomas, a man living in the North Dallas area, said he made an investment of more than $1 million. Thomas says it was the appearance of the documents that fooled him, saying that they looked official. He further said that he believed that others were involved in the scam, as the “plans” he was shown were sophisticated digital architectural plans, and Lucas more than likely had help in creating them.
“They certainly sucked me in,” Thomas said.
Thomas Lucas and his uncle Harry “Beau” Thomas held presentations for potential investors. During the presentations, no cell phones were allowed. According to court filings, the presentations included a slide show of sketches and diagrams of the new Resort.-based
Investors were also shown correspondence that was forged. The correspondence supposedly took place between high-end retailers and The that noted Southwest’s intentions to service the “Frontier Airport,” according to court documents. as there was talk of opening stores in a district called “The Shops at .” There was even fabricated written communication between Southwest Airlines and
Lucas made his pitches, saying that in the was “imminent.”‘s formal announcement about the new
According to The Dallas Morning News, Lucas’s pitch was detailed and even included a fake prospectus:
“The pitch was that investors had to begin buying before the announcement. The announcement would boost the value of their , which they could then sell to developers at a big profit. near the
“‘This will not make history but simply repeat it,’ said a prospectus that Thomas Lucas showed to investors. ‘In order to see what property values do when in Orlando. We have positioned ourselves for a great opportunity by placing under contract over $200 million of property,’ most of which was ‘next to the front entrance or shares a border with the .'” comes to town, we only need to look to
In one instance, an investor who believed Thomas Lucas’s claims purchased 100 acres of in Denton County for $6.3 million.
According to court documents, Lucas gave the following information about the all-new Frontier Resort: Dallas-
Overview: Six theme parks, a lake, and a tram system near the future Dallas North Tollway extension along the Denton-Collin county line.
Phase 1: Condos, high-end shops, PGA golf courses, a water and the Frontier Airport.
Phases 2-4: A Texas version of EPCOT, a TV-movie studio complex, a sports complex, and an animal
Projected jobs: 50,000 to 75,000 jobs created
Development costs: Projected to be $192 million for residential and $600 million for commercial
Hotels: A proposed high-rise hotel near the Dallas North Tollway that promised “spectacular views of the from its upper floors.“
Thomas W. Lucas, Jr. was found guilty on all seven counts of wire fraud and guilty on the one count of making false statements to the FBI. He was sentenced in court to 17 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay $8.4 million in restitution.