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Fair trustee sues to recoup $138,580 in GOP donations

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Fair Finance Co.’s bankruptcy trustee this week filed five lawsuits seeking a total of $138,580 from recipients of political donations from accused Ponzi schemer Tim Durham.

Trustee Brian Bash is seeking the largest sum—$50,000—from the Greater Indianapolis Republican Finance Committee. In all the cases, Bash argues that Fair is entitled to recover the money because at the time Durham made the donations he owed millions of dollars to Fair and its parent companies.

The suits seek donations made since 2006. By the end of 2005, at the latest, Fair operated as a Ponzi scheme and was insolvent by more than $50 million, each of the lawsuits say.

“Durham made the payment to defendant with actual intent to hinder, delay or defraud Fair Finance and its parent companies,” according to the suits.

The other suits seek $40,000 from the committee for Lawrence Mayor Paul Ricketts, $33,580 from the House Republican Campaign Committee, $10,000 from the committee for Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and $5,000 from the Marion County Republican Central Committee.

Before his financial empire collapsed in 2009, Durham was a huge funder of Republican political candidates. The trustee hasn’t filed suits against the biggest recipients of Durham’s political largesse—campaign committees associated with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. Both candidates received about $200,000 from Durham.

In an email Friday afternoon, Brizzi suggested a settlement might be in the offing. "We are working with the trustee toward a mutually agreeable resolution," he said.

Bash said in a statement last month that Daniels at least had responded to the trustee’s request that he return campaign contributions, unlike most others, and the trustee hoped “for mutual resolution through continued discussions.”

A spokeswoman for Daniels did not respond to a request for comment Friday. Joe Esmont, an attorney for the trustee, declined to comment. Representatives of the committees named in this week's suits were not immediately available.

For more than a year, Bash has been trying to recover money for Fair investors—Ohio residents who purchased unsecured investment certificates with interest rates as high as 9.5 percent. He alleges Durham “utterly looted” Fair after buying it in 2002, stripping the business of the financial wherewithal to repay more than 5,000 investors who are owed more than $200 million.

In the statement, he praised Indiana Sen. Mike Delph for “doing the right thing” and returning $10,000 and implored fellow elected officials to follow suit. At least one other Republican has returned Durham money. Former Marion County sheriff candidate Tim Motsinger in late 2009 returned all contributions and loans from Durham, his campaign finance manager, and withdrew from the race.

Last month, Marion County Republican Party Chairman Kyle Walker expressed sympathy for victims of Fair Finance’s collapse but said Durham’s contributions to the party have “long since been spent in good faith.”

Most of Durham's political contributions went to Republicans, but former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson collected $2,000, and former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill received $5,000. Adam Kisch, spokesman for the Marion County Democratic Party, said he did not know whether the men, both Democrats, had returned the contributions.

Durham and two business partners, James Cochran and Rick Snow, were arrested March 16 after being indicted on 12 felony counts, including conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud.

More of IBJ's coverage of Tim Durham and Fair Finance can be found here.

 

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