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Durham gets 50 years for fraud scheme

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Tim Durham will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars after a federal judge on Friday sentenced the disgraced playboy and businessman to a 50-year prison term for defrauding Ohio investors of $250 million.

U.S. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said three words describe both Durham, 50, and the crimes he committed: "Deceit. Greed. Arrogance."

The prosecution had sought a sentence of 225 years, taking into account 5,122 victims and a loss amount of $250 million. The judge agreed with the loss calculations but gave Durham a shorter sentence that will allow him to serve time concurrently on some of his 12 convictions.

"This case was all about numbers that were puffed up to create appearances," Magnus-Stinson said before announcing the sentence. "I’m not going to play that game. Mr. Durham is 50 years old."

The judge is scheduled later Friday afternoon to sentence Durham's two accomplices in the operation of Akron, Ohio-based Fair Finance as a Ponzi scheme.

Before Magnus-Stinson handed down the sentence, Durham stood and gave a brief statement in the courtroom.

“I feel terrible that they all lost money,” he said, his voice somber. “My family has lost all of its investments.”

Durham said he read many of the letters from victims and regrets that the company failed. He also spoke up in defense of his co-defendants. But he did not offer an apology.

“I’m not blind to how everybody has suffered,” Durham said. “I probably wasn’t as familiar with our investor base as I am now. I have regrets. I wish I would have tried harder to make some things clearer.”

Durham attorney John Tompkins said he plans to appeal the sentence within a 14-day limit.

“Anything that is likely to result in dying in prison can’t be described as a good result,” he said outside the courtroom. “But it clearly was better than a lot of what was available to (the judge).”

Unlike state prisoners, federal inmates must serve 85 percent of their sentences.

The rulings follow a morning of legal arguments over sentencing and emotional testimony from four victims of the scheme, including a 42-year-old woman named Kristen Schroeder who called herself "one of the lucky victims" since she still has time to save up and recover.

But the last word came from Barbara Lukacik, a 74-year-old nun who lost her life savings of $125,000.

"What has happened is shameful," she said. "Yes, the economy was weak, but that didn’t give you the right to steal not only my money but all the victims of Fair Financial to use as you wish, for serious greed and pampering. And you say you haven’t hurt anyone; let’s be real. I honestly believe justice must be served because it’s the righteous thing to do."

As she wrapped up her testimony, Lukacik turned toward Durham and said, "Shame on you."

After the sentencing, Lukacik would not say whether she considered the 50-year sentence appropriate.

“I was never for hurting him," she said. "I forgive him. I was for justice to be served.”

She was disappointed he didn't seem sorry: “If he had said he was sorry, that would have meant something.”

The sentencing comes three years after FBI agents raided Fair Finance and Obsidian Enterprises, a Durham company located on the 48th floor of Chase Tower in Indianapolis.

A federal jury in June found Durham guilty on all 12 felony fraud charges stemming from the collapse of Fair. Durham co-owned the firm with Jim Cochran, who was convicted of eight of 12 felony charges. Rick Snow, the company’s chief financial officer, was convicted on five of 12 counts.

The government had recommended a 225-year prison sentence for Durham, 145 years for Cochran, and 85 years for Snow. Cochran was sentenced to 25 years. All three men are expected to appeal.

All of IBJ's coverage of Tim Durham and Fair Finance is here. The IBJ is a sister publication of Indiana Lawyer.
 

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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