Crime & Courts

Thomas Etheredge faces sentencing for securities fraud at 2 p.m. today

Wild West World founder Thomas Etheredge, facing sentencing today for securities fraud, has been hit with two state tax warrants covering the failed theme park's final eight months in late 2006 and 2007.

According to two warrants filed by the Kansas Department of Revenue, Etheredge owes $180,635.12 in sales taxes for December 2006 and February through June 2007. He also owes $42,271.56 in withholding taxes for the fourth quarter of 2006 and the first two quarters of 2007.

Etheredge's attorney, Steve Joseph, said in an e-mail Thursday that his client is broke.

"Thomas and Cheryl Etheredge lost everything they owned except their clothes when Wild West World failed," Joseph said.

"I think it highly unlikely that Mr. Etheredge will ever be able to pay any outstanding business taxes, especially since the trial court will order Mr. Etheredge to pay several hundred thousand dollars in restitution."

Etheredge is scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. today before Sedgwick County District Judge Ben Burgess on seven counts of securities fraud.

The convictions arose from his efforts to raise private capital for the insolvent theme park in the fourth quarter of 2006 and the first two quarters of 2007.

Etheredge, 55, faces up to 14 years in prison. He is expected to appeal.

Joseph has said he will file an appeal notice today but that a public defender would represent Etheredge from there.

A Sedgwick County jury found on Feb. 10 that Etheredge failed to disclose prior criminal convictions and investment risk to seven Wild West World investors.

The investors gave Etheredge between $50,000 and $300,000 each for the Park City theme park, which was open for three months before going bankrupt and closing in July 2007.

Bankruptcy records show the park accumulated about $24 million in debt. Etheredge blamed bad weather and construction cost overruns for the bankruptcy filing, which officially was closed last week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Etheredge has been held in the Sedgwick County Jail on $1 million bond since his arrest May 1.

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