Legal Issues and Bankruptcy and Fraud and Banking & Finance and Investing and Finances and Tim Durham and Law

FBI scoops up Tim Durham's car collection

June 30, 2010

Beleaguered Indianapolis businessman Tim Durham on Wednesday voluntarily turned over a Bentley Flying Spur, a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and other high-end rides to the FBI, a move that sets the stage for the cars to be sold by a bankruptcy trustee.

The FBI late in the afternoon was collecting 15 vehicles from Durham’s Geist Reservoir mansion and another three from his home in Los Angeles.

“Today, the FBI is a towing company,” said Larry Mackey, a criminal defense attorney representing Durham. “We pushed them down the driveway, and the FBI has taken them away.”

Mackey said the FBI began gathering the vehicles after he negotiated an agreement earlier in the day with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a bankruptcy trustee. Under the pact, Durham voluntarily turned them over in return for assurances that proceeds from their sale would go toward mitigating losses suffered by investors in Akron, Ohio-based Fair Finance Co., a Durham-owned firm that collapsed last fall and now is being liquidated.

Fair Finance owes its investors—Ohio residents who purchased investment certificates with interest rates as high as 9.5 percent—more than $200 million.

Officials from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office were not immediately available for comment.

Mackey, a Barnes & Thornburg partner, was livid last Thursday when the FBI seized nine of Durham’s cars. Mackey said that move made no sense because Durham already had turned over the cars’ titles to Fair’s bankruptcy trustee.

Mackey said at the time that the seizure paved the way for proceeds from the car sales to go to the government, rather than to Fair’s investors. He said the new agreement ensures that won’t happen.

Durham was an avid car collector, and his Geist mansion—which is for sale for an asking price of $5.5 million—has a 30-car garage. Other vehicles picked up by the FBI Wednesday include an Auburn Speedster, a Jaguar and a Mercedes.

Wednesday’s gathering of vehicles—which occurred in front of TV cameras—was the highest-profile move by the FBI since late November, when agents raided Fair’s offices and seized records. The same day, the Justice Department filed court papers alleging Durham was operating Fair as a Ponzi scheme, selling new investment certificates to pay off prior purchasers.

Fair didn’t reopen after the raids, and the company stopped redeeming certificates or making interest payments.

Records filed with securities regulators show Durham used Fair like a personal bank after buying it in 2002, with money flowing to support an ostentatious lifestyle, friends and business associates, as well as other companies he owned. The records show that he withdrew tens of millions under a line of credit and that he and associates borrowed even larger sums through businesses they controlled.

The related-party loans now top $168 million and represent the primary asset available to repay investors.

Durham acknowledges he owes lots of money to Fair, but has denied defrauding investors. In court papers, his attorneys contend offering circulars provided to prospective purchasers of investment certificates outlined the risks, including that they carried no government guarantee.

 

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