The prosecution is expected to conclude its case against Thomas Lucas Jr. on wire fraud charges Thursday in Sherman’s federal Court.

The prosecution is expected to conclude its case against Thomas Lucas Jr. on wire fraud charges Thursday in Sherman’s federal Court.


Lucas, 40, was indicted in September 2013 and faces seven counts of wire fraud and one of making false statements to the FBI. Prosecutors claim he swindled more than 50 investors out of about $14 million by telling them Disney planned to build a series of theme parks near Celina. His victims include wealthy people from across the country and abroad.


Jay Rasulo, chief financial officer of Walt Disney Co., told jurors Wednesday there never was a plan to build theme parks in North Texas.


Prosecution witnesses have repeatedly said they got their information about Disney’s supposed plan to come to North Texas from Lucas, and Lucas alone. They said he was very protective of the information and documents that he used to explain that plan to them. Those documents included letters that purported to be from Rasulo or that referenced him and decisions he was supposed to be making about the plans to open a group of theme parks near Celina.


Rasulo said the documents that witnesses have testified they were shown by Lucas had nothing to do with Disney parks and did not come from the Disney or any of its employees.


Disney’s CFO took the stand after two Disney administrative assistants, including his own, testified that the letterhead used for the documents Lucas is alleged to have produced didn’t match what is used by either Rasulo or Disney Chairman Bob Iger. The two women said the letters were poorly written.


Stephanie Volts said she keeps Disney Chairman Bob Iger’s calendar and makes his travel arrangements. She testified he was never in Dallas to hold a meeting of Disney’s Board of Directors, a story that investors said Lucas told them. She also said the letters that were part of the evidence in the case were not letters that were produced by her for Iger.


Some of those documents refer to supposed Disney employees by their last name. Under questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Eason, Volts said Disney has a first-name culture and people are not referred to by their last names. In fact, she said, their name tags don’t even have last names, they just have first names and the name of their hometowns.


Rasulo was asked why there has never been a plan to build a Disney park in Texas and he said it wouldn’t make sense for the company to do so. He said market research has shown the company that the population of the country, when it comes to visiting Disney theme parks, is broken into two sections. Those people east of the Mississippi go to Florida and those west of the Mississippi go to Disneyland in California. He said while they might be able to draw visitors to a park in Texas, it would just be taking visitors from the other two parks, and, given the billions of dollars it cost to open such a park, that would not make sense.


Todd Lyght, former NFL defensive player who spent 12 years with the L.A. Rams and Detroit Lions, said he invested over $700,000 in the plan to buy up land around what Lucas told him was the property Disney had already bought for its future theme parks in Texas. Lyght said he was a childhood friend of Jay Yarid Jr. and Yarid told him about an investment opportunity. Lyght eventually traveled to Dallas to one of the investors meetings many people have testified Lucas ran at the Harry B. Lucas real estate firm. Lyght said he wanted in on the deal after hearing the pitch Thomas Lucas Jr. presented.


Defense attorneys asked if Lyght did any type of due diligence on his own to try to confirm the things he heard from Lucas Jr. were true. He said he believed in Yarid and Yarid said he believed in Lucas’ information and that was enough for Lyght. The defense attorney then asked if Lyght understood that Lucas had no power to make Disney build a them park complex in North Texas. The former football player and current coach said he relied on what Lucas said he could do which was say for sure that Disney was coming to North Texas.


Luas’ attorneys spent a good deal of time Wednesday trying to cast the blame away from their client by pointing out things the investors could have done to find out more information about Disney’s expansion plans. But they couldn’t protect their client from a laundry list of friends and former friends the prosecution called to testify about a bachelor party in Austin which Lucas has previously stated was the place where he met the Disney source he said gave him all of the information he passed along to investors.


One after another, Lucas’ childhood friends testified that they saw him at the weekend’s events but never saw him with the person Lucas eventually named as his source to the FBI. That man, Michael Joseph Watson Jr., who is now deceased, is just a scapegoat, prosecutors said. The prosecution claims that Lucas met Watson while the two were both being treated at a methadone clinic. Watson’s wife is expected to testify Thursday in the case.


One of Lucas’ friends did say he heard Lucas talk about having information about a Disney development during the bachelor weekend in Austin. That friend said Lucas was bragging about the information but not too many people were paying him attention because they were all in one room with a group of naked dancers and booze. The friend also described Lucas as someone who had the "gift of the gab" and was good with computers. Prosecutors then introduced copies of Lucas’ bank records showing he had purchased a copy of the popular photo editing software Adobe Photoshop.


Another childhood friend of Lucas testified that she never confirmed any Disney information for him. Shelle Slater, a reporter with a Dallas news station, said she and Lucas knew each other from their time together at Plano Sr. High School but had not kept in touch over the years since graduation. She said she ran into him at North Park Mall and he asked her about the rumor that Disney was going to build in the area. She said he told her that he had some proof of the rumor that he would send her so she could do a story on it. She said she never promised a story.


During the trial, investors have testified that Lucas told them Slater confirmed the Disney rumor and was even allowed to attend a secret Disney meeting.


Defense attorneys have tried continually to put as much distance as possible between Lucas and the actual land deals by repeatedly asking investors if Lucas ever told them which pieces of property were for sale or gave them instructions on how to wire money to purchase land or be a part of purchasing options on land parcels.