Prosecution rests after testimony from Fair Finance trustee

The government rested its fraud case against Tim Durham and two co-defendants Monday afternoon after pointing out just how little was left for investors in Fair Finance after an alleged Ponzi scheme.

Brian Bash, the man charged with recovering money for investors in the Ohio consumer-loan company, testified that his team has managed to recover just $5.6 million of more than $215 million in investor losses.

Bash, Fair's Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee, was the final government witness and followed testimony from victims, accountants and former employees of Durham and co-defendants Jim Cochran and Rick Snow.

The trial began June 11. The defense is expected to call its first witness Tuesday morning and finish by the afternoon. Final arguments are expected late Tuesday afternoon, and the case likely will go to the jury Wednesday.

Bash said recovering funds for Fair investors has been difficult. He said he's managed to collect just $518,000 of the roughly $200 million in related-party loans Fair made to Durham, Cochran and related companies.

Under cross examination by Durham defense attorney John Tompkins, Bash acknowledged it is his "hope and belief" he'll be able to recover much more.

Tompkins also questioned Bash on a contingency-fee arrangement the trustee has requested that would pay his firm 30 percent of any recovery up to $50 million, 15 percent of anything between $50 million and $100 million, and 10 percent of anything over $100 million.

Moments before his testimony, Tompkins asked Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson to disqualify Bash for discussing the case over lunch with his attorney.

Tompkins called his own wife to the stand, who said she had heard Bash and attorney Kelly Burgan discussing the case at Paradise Cafe and Bakery.

Witnesses expected to testify aren’t permitted to interact with other witnesses or get updates on the testimony of others before they are questioned. Burgan has attended the entire trial.

Both Burgan and Bash said their discussion followed the court's order. The judge agreed, allowing Bash to testify.

Durham, Cochran and Snow, Fair's chief financial officer, are facing 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud. The government alleges they bilked more than 5,000 Ohio investors out of $215 million by turning Fair into a Ponzi scheme. If convicted, they face decades in prison.

For all of IBJ's coverage of Fair Finance and Durham, click here.

The prosecution has based a good portion of its case on a series of government-recorded phone calls between Cochran and Durham. In a wiretap from Nov. 19, 2009, introduced as government evidence last week, Cochran and Durham briefly discuss the possibility that they could serve jail time. The recording appears below.

To hear audio from several other wiretaps between Durham and Cochran, click here.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.