A series of government-recorded phone calls have provided some of the most riveting courtroom moments during the fraud trial of Indianapolis financier Tim Durham and two co-defendants.
The government secretly recorded Durham in conversations with Fair Finance partner Jim Cochran and Chief Financial Officer Rick Snow. Together, the men stand accused of defrauding more than 5,000 investors in Ohio out of more than $200 million by running Fair Finance as a Ponzi scheme.
The profanity-laced phone conversations, introduced in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis this week as government evidence, suggest the defendants were willing to do just about anything to keep Fair afloat in its final days. The call snippets suggest their moves were not out of any particular concern for the Ohio investors who stood to lose everything, but to save themselves.
Defense attorneys say the men were acting desperately to save Fair from the global financial crisis.
Here are several highlights from calls between Durham and Cochran (Snow appears on other calls):
In this call recorded Nov. 18, 2009, Cochran explains to Durham how he persuaded an investor in Fair Finance who wanted to cash out $200,000 to take just $100,000 instead, convincing the investor he was doing him a favor.
The following recording from Nov. 24, 2009, (the day of an FBI raid on Fair Finance and another Durham-held firm) contains a conversation between Durham and Cochran about a financial shell game to make Fair's finances look better.
Also on Nov. 24, Durham explains to Cochran that he plans to sell most of the remainder of his classic car collection to raise cash. When Cochran suggests he use the money to help fund the failing Fair, Durham demurs, saying he'll keep the money unless the state of Ohio approves the sale of another round of investment certificates for Fair. In fact, money from Fair investors helped fund the purchase of those cars.
Later in the same Nov. 24 call, Durham tells Cochran that this is the "perfect time" to have Fair fail, since hundreds of banks are failing and that he and Cochran can blame the collapse on the world economy.
In a call recorded on Nov. 19, Durham and Cochran discuss how to put off clients who want to cash in their investments. Durham warns Cochran not to use a particular excuse too often, "because it's not really true."
In a call recorded on Nov. 19, Cochran and Durham briefly discuss the possibility that they could serve jail time.
Click here to catch up on all of IBJ's Tim Durham/Fair Finance coverage.