Brizzi agrees to pay Fair Finance nearly $200K

Former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and his campaign committee have agreed to pay Fair Finance Co.’s bankruptcy trustee $195,881—by far the largest settlement with a politician who received campaign contributions from the company’s CEO, indicted Indianapolis financier Tim Durham.

Under the deal filed Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Akron, Ohio, the Brizzi for Prosecutor Committee will repay all $170,881 donated by Durham, Fair Finance and affiliated companies.

In addition, court papers show that bankruptcy Trustee Brian Bash alleged that Fair Finance and Durham provided Brizzi with personal loans and financial assistance totaling $55,735 for trips and miscellaneous expenses.

Brizzi disputes the amount, according to the settlement, but agreed to pay $25,000. Though the deal requires court approval, Brizzi’s campaign committee already has provided the trustee with a $170,881 check, and Brizzi has provided a $15,000 check. He’ll pay the remaining $10,000 in monthly installments of $1,000, the settlement says.

Brizzi did not return a call from IBJ, but in a text message to a reporter with WRTV-TV Channel 6, he wrote: "It's time for that chapter to close."

David Proano, a Cleveland attorney representing the bankruptcy trustee, declined to comment.

The trustee for months has been negotiating with Indiana politicians who were beneficiaries of Durham’s largesse before his financial empire collapsed two years ago. The trustee contends the payments were fraudulent transfers because they were made when Durham and his companies were insolvent.

The trustee since early 2010 has been trying to recover money for Fair Finance's investors—Ohio residents who purchased unsecured certificates with interest rates as high as 9.5 percent. Bash alleges Durham “utterly looted” Akron-based 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.

Before his downfall, Durham was one of the largest contributors to Indiana politicians, particularly Republicans. The trustee expects to recoup a total of about $115,000 from six earlier settlements with campaign committees and politicians who'd received Durham donations. The highest-profile office-holder to settle so far is Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, who returned $10,000. Gov. Mitch Daniels, who received about $200,000 in Durham donations, hasn’t reached a deal.

Brizzi, once considered a rising star in Republican politics, didn't seek re-election in 2010 following criticism over his ties to Durham, a friend who served as his 2006 campaign finance chairman. Brizzi now is in private law practice.

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

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

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