Fake Disney park scam lands Texas man in prison for 17 years

SHERMAN, Texas -- A man has been sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison for swindling investors with a fake story about a Walt Disney theme park in North Texas.

The judge also ordered Thomas W. Lucas Jr. of Plano to pay $8.4 million in restitution Tuesday.

Lucas was convicted on seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI.

Prosecutors say Lucas defrauded more than 280 investors out of about $20 million from 2006 to 2010. Those who paid for land in Collin and Denton counties were told it was on the edges of the future park. Investors hoped to sell the land to developers for a profit after Disney made an announcement.

The Walt Disney Co. has denied rumors of a North Texas theme park.

Two of the swindled investors spoke to CBS affiliate KXII earlier this year.

"It would be easier, as long as I didn't get shot, to be robbed with a gun," Jimmy Dean said. "Because you can see that happening. You know what their intent is."

Dean is one of more than 50 investors allegedly scammed by Thomas Lucas Jr.

Another investor, Bill Thomas, called the scam "very convincing."