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Durham's Fair Finance drops effort to sell securities

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Tim Durham’s Fair Finance Co. told securities regulators this week that it is withdrawing its request for approval to sell an additional $250 million in investment certificates.

Fair in recent months had been trying to persuade the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Securities to register the securities, despite allegations that the company  was operating like a Ponzi scheme.

The Division of Securities had twice turned Fair away, most recently on Dec. 3. In a letter to the company’s attorney that day, division official Mark Heuerman called the application “incomplete and inadequate” and asked for a mountain of additional documentation.

Fair has been closed since Nov. 24, the date a securities registration granted in July 2008 expired. That afternoon, federal prosecutors filed court papers accusing Durham of securities fraud, and FBI agents raided and seized documents and computer equipment at Durham’s Indianapolis office and at Fair’s Akron, Ohio, headquarters.

In an e-mail to Ohio securities regulators late Monday afternoon, Ronald Kaffen, an Akron attorney representing Fair, suggested that the raids stripped the company of access to the records regulators are seeking.

“Unfortunately, it is not now in a position to produce the requested documents ... due to the fact that the documents are not in Fair’s possession and will not be in its possession for the foreseeable future,” Kaffen’s e-mail said.

The raids occurred one month after IBJ published an investigative story raising questions about whether the company had the financial wherewithal to repay the $200 million it owes to Ohio residents who purchased investment certificates.

The story noted that since Durham bought Fair from Donald Fair in 2002, he had used it almost like a personal bank to fund a range of business interests, some of them unsuccessful. Loans to Durham, partners and related parties now top $168 million.

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