Celebrity lawyer Roy Black tapped in Durham criminal probe

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Greg Andrews

Tim Durham says he’s ruined financially, but he’s not cutting corners lining up legal firepower to defend himself.

Durham has hired famed criminal defense attorney Roy Black of Miami, lawyers representing the Indianapolis financier in civil litigation confirmed.

Black, 65, who did not return calls, is perhaps best known for winning the acquittal of William Kennedy Smith on rape charges in Palm Beach, Fla., in 1991. More recently, he got charges dropped against Rush Limbaugh, who was accused of shopping for doctors to obtain thousands of Oxycontin pills, and won acquittal for three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves on income-tax-evasion charges.

Black Black

It’s not clear how the 48-year-old Durham is paying Black, who legal observers say could end up billing well over $1 million in fees.

In an interview on WTHR-TV Channel 13 this month, Durham said the collapse of Fair Finance Co., the Akron, Ohio, firm he owned and led, wiped out his fortune. “I probably will have lost my entire net worth,” he said.

Durham used Fair like a personal bank to fund other businesses and a lavish lifestyle and now owes the firm tens of millions of dollars. His failure to repay the money has resulted in huge losses for the 5,000 Ohio residents who bought more than $200 million in unsecured investment certificates from the company.

Asked how Durham could afford such a marquee attorney while not meeting his obligations to Fair, Kelly Burgan, a Cleveland attorney who is helping the company’s bankruptcy trustee scrape together assets for investors, said: “That’s a good question. I would like to know the answer myself.”

She added: “Anything Tim Durham spends a lot of money on begs the question of where the money is coming from.”

Gary Sallee, an Indianapolis attorney representing Durham in civil litigation, suggested Durham was getting help from people sympathetic to his cause.

“To be honest, I don’t know” where the money is coming from to pay Black’s legal fees, Sallee said. “But I do know there is a lot of support for Tim Durham among friends and others who may believe there has been overreaching” by investigators.

One of the people apparently helping is retired Indianapolis businessman and former City-County Council President Beurt SerVaas, the 91-year-old father of Durham’s ex-wife, Joan SerVaas. “I think he asked Dad for a loan. Dad might have lent him money,” Joan SerVaas told IBJ. She added: “If he gets through all this, he might be able to pay it back.”

Insurance could help

Other attorneys who don’t represent Durham say it’s possible some fees billed by Black’s law firm, Black Srebnick Kornspan & Stumpf, ultimately will be covered by directors-and-officers errors and omissions insurance purchased by his companies. They also say celebrity attorneys like Black are so eager to take on high-profile cases that they sometimes work for surprisingly modest sums.

Black’s hiring nudges out of the picture Durham’s previous criminal defense attorney, Larry Mackey, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg who co-chairs the firm’s White Collar Crime Defense Practice Group.

Mackey, a heavyweight in his own right, is best known for serving on the prosecution team that convicted Oklahoma City bombing suspects Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Hourly fees for top-tier local attorneys like Mackey approach or surpass $500 an hour, legal observers say.

Probe continues

It’s not clear what, if any, charges Durham will face. Last November, on the same day FBI agents raided Fair’s headquarters and Durham’s office atop the Chase Tower, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Indianapolis filed court papers alleging Durham ran Fair as a Ponzi scheme, selling new investment certificates to pay off prior investors.

Prosecutors have said little since, though Tim Morrison, first assistant U.S. attorney, confirms the investigation continues. He declined to speculate when it will conclude, though another person familiar with the probe said it was on the verge of wrapping up.

In his interview with Channel 13, Durham blamed the raid for unraveling the business. “It’s hard to survive, for any company to survive, this kind of negative publicity that arose over the raids and the subsequent media storm that happened,” he said.

But an investigation by the bankruptcy trustee overseeing Fair’s liquidation found the firm was in dire straits before the Nov. 24, 2009, raid. On that date, it had only $565,000 in cash in its bank accounts, but owed $1.8 million by the end of the month.•


  • You guys have idea
    These two gentlemen that just tried to save a dying business. Many of you counting probably would have done the same thing if you were in the same shoes. And yes durhams life style (which was over 100) was straight out out of line and will get some puishment for it...in many way. Dan laikin was trying to save a business and did not use anybody's money except his own. It did not hut anyone but hiself.
  • Humours
    I was just doing a little search on Tim in Hamilton County Courts. I find it ironic that Tim had a car collection with well over 50 cars but was pulled over in 2008 without a drivers licenses.

    Conversion Unknown

    07/10/2008 Converted Event
    BD Agreed Judgment filed and approved.
    Defense and Prosecutor plea as follows: State AMENDS
    Speeding 55/40 to No Valid License in Possession. Deft
    admits to No Valid License. $110.50 court costs and $89.50
    fine, to be paid within 45 days.
  • reply
    Don't waste your time. You'll never see a penny.
  • A Obsidian shareholder
    Is it too late to sue Obsidian if you were a past shareholder? Is there a time limit?
  • Typical
    I don't think guy from Geist is just one voice. I think he is your typical credit card millionaire from Geist who thinks he's a know it all and is better than everybody. NOBODY cares about the fake lifestyles that most of the people on that lake live. Get lives, cut up your credit cards and do something worthwile with your time.
  • please don't stereotype
    GuyfromGeist is but one voice. I think most Geist residents are just as appalled as everyone else.
  • re
  • Can Bobby Laikin please comment as to Tim's psychic abilities?
    Oh, and Tim just happened to guess you were goign to take out Cellstar and just happened to "guess" about that Verizon money parked off balance sheet at Cellstar, did he Laikin? Is that why you did an asset instead of a stock purchase? I hope the feds nail all of you because this really smells about as bad as Carl Brizzi's psychic ability to buy Cellstar and Red Rock Pictures.


  • re
    start complaining to Andrea Seidt whose email is andrea.seidt@com.state.oh.us and ask her when the heck Ohio is goign to do something since it's obvious Joe (hell no, Joe, we won't go cuz we have the dirt on when you reach under the skirt below) et al will do absolutely nothing to Timmy and his cronies

    Any one who thinks these crooks did'nt do anything wrong and our inocent has a real problem.Where does anyone see it is right to defraud people by deception and live beyond their means.Leave them alone you say?Only when I see each and every one of their death certificates shall I feel comfort.
  • Lydia's Ponzi
    only took Florida a few months to indict Lydia--turns out she actually has a business producing cash flow ( in addition to the Ponzi) and investors should get about $60M.

    Now why is it Tim's businesses have NO cash flow? Oh yeah, because he never worked! Because all his Fair Finance offices did what? They sold certificates so Tim could loot the money instead of bringing in revenue-producing factoring customers!

    Maybe we need those Florida folks here in Indy.

  • re
    Young man, in response to your questions I believe the state of Ohio has seven years to indict any and all of those hooligans.

    In response to your comment about leaving this man alone for the holidays, how we all wish he had left--and our life savings--alone. There will be no holidays for those of us wiped out.

    God speed to those helping make a difference.
  • Put things on hold
    Is there a time limit before the feds have to charge someone or drop it? Can everybody just leave TD and his family alone (innocent until proven guilty in USA) especially during this holiday time.
    • Question
      Does anyone know if Larry Mackey will now be required to show where his funds came from?

      Also I have heard there just under 10 indictments. I can see Tim and Jim. Guesses to the others?

      It is extremely sad to see tim destroy his mother and father's heart the way he has with the poor judgements he and his partners have made.Thier demon life style's they have chosen at other's expense.Now when his parents have a heart attack or a stroke maybe he will also be charged with manslaughter along with his other charges.
    • Robin Hood
      Pretty funny Tim grew up on Robin Hood. Maybe it was in the water.
    • Question for Joan
      Joan, confused here--did you say your Dad loaned Tim money or Tim loaned your Dad money? Cuz you are Curtis Publishing and the list Tim gave the Ohio Dept of Securities shows a loan in excess of $1M to you.

      You wouldn't be parking cash for him, now would ya?

    • plot thickens
      Keep after this story IBJ, there are many of us who are keen to see justice relegated to this band of thieves and liars.
    • from Brightpoint and Cellstar to Motel 6
      Pretty sad, Durham--looks like your Dad is completely repulsed by what you have done...or, alternatively, out of the cash now that Fair Finance has had the kaputs put on it

      Motel 6? While Erica's parents live at 1227 Sierra Alta for free while you please poverty to Anne Tiernon? What kind of son are you! Motel 6 for your elderly father. Sad. Sad.
    • Today's Akron Beacon Journal
      The author did not point out not only did Dan's loans grow to excess of $15M that Dan Laikin's brother, Bob Laikin is CEO of Brightpoint, and that by the way the Brightpoint shares were comingled in an account in Tim Durham's name but Durham never disclosed this in his 13D filing when he listed his purported "investment group" that had timely accumulated Brightpoint, and then later Cellstar shortly before Brightpoint bought their assets.


      today's article:


      And banking the Tim Durham way!


    • Enjoy!

      Marion County Circuit Court
      Clerk's Office

      SEARS ROEBUCK & CO SALLEE GA 49K080202SC000952 D
      SEARS ROEBUCK & CO SALLEE GA 49K080202SC000952 D
      1-12 of 12 Record(s)

    • Gary Sallee

      Where does it say Durham was an owner? $804,000 of Fair Finance money was given to Playa Del Racing.

      If the teams were SO SUCCESSFUL then Gary will have records showing repayment of this $804,000 right? Given he's a lawyer licensed in the state of Indiana we know he'd want to do things the right way and never lie.

      The team continues to hold true to it's original philosophy, which is to do things the old fashioned way by surrounding the team with the best personnel, while having fun with the racing industry.
      Gary Sallee is an Indiana native, who resided in Playa Del Rey, Calif. when PDR was born, has enjoyed previous success in open-wheel racing prior to the birth of PDR. Sallee co-founded other successful IRL teams such as Team Cheever and ISM Racing. Team Cheever managed to score the JPMorgan Chase Bank "Rookie of the Year" honors with Jeff Ward behind the wheel after a third place finish in the 1997 Indianapolis 500. Sallee had continued success in 1998 when ISM Racing finished third and earned a "Rookie of the Year" award with Steve Knapp in the cockpit. Sallee earned his law degree from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and practices law in both Indiana and California. Sallee resides in Indianapolis, and is father of two sons Benjamin and Patrick.
    • Laughing
      Tim would have been much better off sticking with Larry Mackey. What a fool!

      He can hire Roy Black, who defended Durham pal Peter Max, all he wants but it's not going to make a difference except in the coffers of the victims who will be out yet another pool of money that could have been recouped if Tim Morrison had not called off the asset freeze.

      You might recall Peter Max actually pleaded guilty, and the sum of course was much smaller, $1.1Million, and the victim of course was not personal. In Durham's case there are over 5,600 mostly elderly and to a large extent Amish and Mennonite victims whom he lied to, looted and repeatedly victimized. Affinity and elderly crime committed in order obtain mansions, airplanes, exotic cars and a bunch of loser hangers on that he also funded the lifestyles of, all in order to pretend to be the world's richest man, is not a comparison.

      Durham can hire Black, he can hire the best of the best, the bottom line is if he is innocent why isn't he spending his time telling everyone where the money is instead of living it lavishly in LA? How will he explain this continued lifestyle to any jury anywhere? And Roy Black may be licensed in federal court but don't count out the various states in which Durham committed crimes. Who will pay those fees of the lawyers Roy Black will associate with in order to practice in, for example, Ohio state court?

      I doubt seriously Joan's dad is paying Tim's legal fees. I suspect he is still outraged over Durham's alleged embezzlement of the Carpenter Industries Retirement fund--it's either an urban myth or it's true. And if it's true that would certainly explain why Curtis Publishing (Buert's company) showed up on the Fair Finance loan list to the tune of around $1M. Does anyone honestly believe that Curtis Publishing needed to borrow $1M from Fair Finance, never pay it back, yet have enough money to later lend Tim the money to defend himself against theft?


      PS, Love the quote from Gary Sallee. Didn't he receive over $800,000 of Fair Finance money in his purported racing venture? C'mon, Gary, ante up some quotes about where the loan repayments from you were. We'd like to see some cancelled checks--even three cancelled checks, even one would be nice. Now, that is funny to think you'd deliver something like that to the news media.

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    1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

    2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

    3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

    4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

    5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.