Newspapers seek to unseal Durham search warrants

December 17, 2009

Daily newspapers on Thursday filed a motion seeking to unseal search warrant documents related to the federal investigation of Indianapolis businessman Tim Durham and Akron, Ohio-based Fair Finance Co.

An attorney for the Akron Beacon Journal and The Indianapolis Star filed the motion, citing “significant overriding public interest in the disclosure of the search warrant documents.”

“Transparency in the investigation into Mr. Durham’s financial affairs can only serve to enhance the public’s faith in its government,” according to a memorandum filed by the newspapers Thursday afternoon. “The sealing of such documents only serves to undermine the integrity of the judicial process and enhance the perception that Mr. Durham’s political connections will save him.”

FBI agents on Nov. 24 executed search warrants at Durham’s Indianapolis office and at Fair’s Akron headquarters. Agents hauled away computer equipment and bankers boxes full of documents. Investigators have refused to provide information on the warrants, saying they are sealed.

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.

Court papers filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Indianapolis on 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.”

Durham, a major contributor to many Republican political candidates, has denied doing anything improper.



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