Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Wild West fraud

A jury has found Thomas Etheredge (pictured), 55, founder of the failed Wild West World theme park in Wichita, Kansas, guilty on seven of nine counts in his securities fraud trial.

Sentencing was due March 12. He faces up to 14 years in prison and an appeal is expected.

Etheredge was charged with convincing investors to give him nearly $750,000 (€550,000) for the park by either providing false or incomplete information about his past. He had served three years in prison for another securities fraud conviction in Kansas in 1987.

Religion was a constant theme throughout the trial as Etheredge and all but two of the investors listed on the criminal complaint, including two pastors, attended the same church.

Wild West World opened in May 2007, but closed and went bankrupt two months later. The park had supposedly been built for $30 million, but industry observers could only account for about half of that in the 24 rides, 12 retail shops, 18 food outlets, 18 games and four music venues. Buildings, for example, used economical barn-pole construction.

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