National Roundup

Texas
Man accused of duping investors over fake park

SHERMAN, Texas (AP) - A member of a Dallas-area real estate family is set to go on trial after being accused of faking a story about a Walt Disney theme park and resort coming to North Texas to trick people into investing millions of dollars in land while pocketing commissions from the sales.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the federal fraud trial for 40-year-old Thomas W. Lucas Jr. is set to begin Monday in Sherman, located about 65 miles north of Dallas. Lucas, who was indicted in 2013, is charged with seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI. The charges carry a penalty of p to 145 years in prison.

Investors say they overpaid for land in Collin and Denton counties that they were told was on the fringes of the future theme park. The investors planned to flip the land to developers at a profit when the Disney announcement was made. The investors said in court documents that Lucas showed them fake and forged artist sketches, maps, site plans and other documents related to "Frontier Disney Dallas-Fort Worth" to dupe them.

Numerous partnerships, joint ventures and limited liability companies were set up to begin acquiring land in the area.

Prosecutors say that from 2006 to 2010, Lucas defrauded more than 50 investors out of about $14 million.

Rumors of the attraction in Texas have circulated for more than a decade with The Dallas Morning News reporting in 2009 about the persistence of the rumors. This is the first time someone has faced trial on charges of trying to take advantage of the rumor.

The Walt Disney Co. has repeatedly denied plans to build a theme park in North Texas.

Howard Blackmon Jr., an attorney for Lucas, said Sunday that they'll present their case and let a jury decide.

Lucas told potential investors he had a secret source who tipped him off about the theme park. Prosecutors say the identity of Lucas' secret source varied depending on whom he spoke to and when. It could change from a childhood friend to a lifelong friend to someone he graduated from high school with, to a friend of a friend.

When the FBI questioned him about it in 2013, Lucas gave them the name of a dead man, a Hurricane Katrina transplant with a drug habit who worked odd jobs before committing suicide in 2012. Prosecutors say Lucas met him at a North Texas methadone rehab clinic where the two were receiving treatment.

New Jersey
Role of USA to be argued in case of racketeering

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A federal judge is to hear arguments about whether New Jersey's U.S. attorney should remove himself from prosecuting a racketeering case against a former Democratic power broker.

Joseph Ferriero's trial is likely to begin this week in Newark. The former head of the Bergen County Democratic Organization is charged with using the group as a racketeering enterprise by soliciting bribes in exchange for political influence.

Ferriero's lawyer claims that U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman should remove himself from the case because Fishman represented a potential witness several years ago when he was in private practice.

The U.S. attorney's office calls the motion "groundless."

Ferriero was convicted of conspiracy and mail fraud in another case in 2009. Those convictions were tossed after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling narrowed the applicable law.

Montana
Ex-billionaire makes last effort to appease judge

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Ex-billionaire Tim Blixseth says he's complied with a federal judge's order to provide details on a Mexico property sale after earlier delays in giving up the documents landed him briefly in jail.

Blixseth's attorney earlier said his client couldn't produce all the documents to meet a deadline last week from U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon in a lawsuit brought by Blixseth's creditors.

But Blixseth submitted thousands of documents late Friday and over the weekend in a last-ditch effort to avoid further roiling Haddon, who already found him in contempt of court.

Blixseth says in a sworn declaration that bank statements and records he obtained from Mexico show what happened to the $13.8 million from the 2011 sale.

His creditors have until Feb. 20 to respond.

They've suggested Blixseth is trying to hide the proceeds along with other money he took from Montana's elite Yellowstone Club resort.

New Jersey
Feds to seek death penalty for drug gang leader

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the man they say led a violent New Jersey street gang charged in 2013 with six murders.

Prosecutors on Monday filed the formal notice of their intent to seek the death penalty against 30-year-old Farad Roland. They say it's only the second death penalty case to be tried in federal court in New Jersey.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman says U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder authorized seeking the death penalty against Roland last month. They say Roland led the South Side Cartel in Newark, a subset of the Bloods street gang.

Roland and two co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to murder, kidnapping, robbery, carjacking and drug conspiracy charges. His co-defendants will not face the death penalty.

Roland's lawyers weren't immediately available for comment.

New York
Madoff trustee returns $355M more to investors

NEW YORK (AP) - The New York trustee recovering money for investors cheated in Bernard Madoff's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme has distributed $355 million more to victims.

Trustee Irving Picard said in a release Monday that over half of Madoff's investors with allowable claims have been fully compensated.

He adds that everyone with an allowable claim of less than $976,000 has been fully paid.

Picard says the latest distribution to investors was the fifth and represents another significant step forward.

Picard says the average payout in the latest round was $330,000. The smallest is $431 and the biggest is $67 million.

So far, Picard's office has recovered over $10.5 billion. More than $7.2 billion has been paid out.

Investors lost about $20 billion.

Madoff was arrested in 2008. He is serving a 150-year prison sentence.

Published: Tue, Feb 10, 2015

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