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Newspapers join fight to unseal Durham records

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The Indianapolis Business Journal and The Wall Street Journal have joined the legal fight to unseal search-warrant documents related to the federal investigation of businessman Tim Durham and Akron, Ohio-based Fair Finance Co. The IBJ is a sister publication of Indiana Lawyer.

Akron Beacon Journal and The Indianapolis Star launched the effort in mid-December. This week, an Akron attorney filed an amended motion in federal courts in Indiana and Ohio bringing in the additional newspapers. The filing seeks unsealing in part because of "intense community and national interest."

The probe has been public since Nov. 24, when FBI agents executed search warrants at Durham's Indianapolis office and at Fair's headquarters. Agents hauled away computer equipment and bankers boxes full of documents. Investigators have refused to provide information about the warrants, saying they are sealed.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Indianapolis has not filed a response to the original motion to unseal. Timothy Morrison, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, would not comment today about what position his office will take.

Court papers filed by Morrison's office Nov. 24 allege Fair operated as a Ponzi scheme, using money from new investors to pay what it owed prior investors, thereby "lulling the earlier victims into believing that their money was being [handled] responsibly."

The raids occurred one month after IBJ published an investigative story that raised questions about whether Fair Finance had the financial wherewithal to repay Ohio investors who had purchased nearly $200 million in investment certificates.

The story reported that, since Durham bought the consumer-loan business in 2002, he had used it almost like a personal bank to fund a range of business interests, some of them unsuccessful. The story noted that he and related parties owe Fair more than $168 million.

In the amended motion to unseal, Karen Lefton, an attorney for Brouse McDowell in Akron, argued that keeping the records sealed violates the newspapers' common law right to access judicial records, as well as their First Amendment rights.

"It is highly unlikely the government would be able to meet its burden of showing that sealing is essential to preserving the integrity of its ongoing investigation," the motion says.

"In addition, all the principal parties - Mr. Durham, his companies' leaders, the prosecutor - already know the contents of those file cabinets and computers that were seized from Fair Finance. Indeed, it seems that by sealing the search warrant documents, that information is being withheld only from those for whom it is most important - the public and innocent investors who now must undertake recovery on their own."

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  1. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

  2. What a fine example of the best of the Hoosier tradition! How sad that the AP has to include partisan snark in the obit for this great American patriot and adventurer.

  3. Why are all these lawyers yakking to the media about pending matters? Trial by media? What the devil happened to not making extrajudicial statements? The system is falling apart.

  4. It is a sad story indeed as this couple has been only in survival mode, NOT found guilty with Ponzi, shaken down for 5 years and pursued by prosecution that has been ignited by a civil suit with very deep pockets wrenched in their bitterness...It has been said that many of us are breaking an average of 300 federal laws a day without even knowing it. Structuring laws, & civilForfeiture laws are among the scariest that need to be restructured or repealed . These laws were initially created for drug Lords and laundering money and now reach over that line. Here you have a couple that took out their own money, not drug money, not laundering. Yes...Many upset that they lost money...but how much did they make before it all fell apart? No one ask that question? A civil suit against Williams was awarded because he has no more money to fight...they pushed for a break in order...they took all his belongings...even underwear, shoes and clothes? who does that? What allows that? Maybe if you had the picture of him purchasing a jacket at the Goodwill just to go to court the next day...his enemy may be satisfied? But not likely...bitterness is a master. For happy ending lovers, you will be happy to know they have a faith that has changed their world and a solid love that many of us can only dream about. They will spend their time in federal jail for taking their money from their account, but at the end of the day they have loyal friends, a true love and a hope of a new life in time...and none of that can be bought or taken That is the real story.

  5. Could be his email did something especially heinous, really over the top like questioning Ind S.Ct. officials or accusing JLAP of being the political correctness police.

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