Thomas Etheredge Sentenced to 5 Years In Prison

Thomas Etheredge Sentenced to 5 Years In Prison
Etheredge's charisma, Now out on parole

By Kim Hynes (WICHITA, Kan.) - 5/2/2010 - original
Thomas Etheredge will go to prison for misleading investors in Wild West World. A judge sentenced him Friday to five years. The sentence was an agreement both the prosecution and defense reached. The maximum sentence was 11 years.

By taking the five year sentence, Etheredge gave up his right to appeal. His attorney Steve Joseph says he hated to give that up, but it was in the best interest of Etheredge. An appeal process takes at least two years. If they won the appeal, it would only get them a new trail.

Joseph says this sentence made more sense. The five years has an end date and with time served Etheredge should be out in a little more than three years.

The state also agreed with the sentence. The prosecution says unlike most fraud cases, Etheredge spent the money on Wild West World like he was supposed to. They also stated the sentence seemed fair given Etheredge also invested and lost everything he owned in the park.

After sentencing Etheredge, Judge Ben Burgess also ordered he pay back restitution equaling $575,000. He will also be on three years supervised probation once released.

A jury found Etheredge guilty on seven of the nine charges of securities fraud in February. Prosecutors say he misrepresented his finances and got more than $800,000 from investors. They also say he funneled investor money through his own bank account to make it appear he was investing his own money.

Wild West World closed two months after it opened in 2007