Crime & Courts

Etheredge gets five-year jail sentence for securities fraud

WICHITA — Wild World West theme park founder Thomas Etheredge was sentenced today to five years in prison for securities fraud.

Before the sentencing, Etheredge reached an agreement with prosecutors in which he promised not to appeal his conviction.

Prosecutors, in exchange, agreed not to seek consecutive sentences on the seven counts for which he was convicted.

With nearly a year of time already served in jail, Etheredge will be released from prison in three years and three months if given time off for good behavior, defense lawyer Steve Joseph said.

District Judge Ben Burgess ordered Etheredge to pay $550,000 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.

Prosecutors charged Etheredge with persuading investors to give him money for Wild West World by providing false or incomplete information about his past.

The park, which opened in May 2007, went bankrupt and closed two months later.

For more on this story, see Saturday's Wichita Eagle.