Durham fails to convince judge to reduce 50-year sentence

Convicted Ponzi scheme leader Tim Durham failed Friday afternoon in his bid to get his 50-year prison sentence reduced.

Durham appeared in federal court in Indianapolis for a resentencing hearing following the September dismissal of two felony counts of wire fraud by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The appeals court threw out two of 12 counts because prosecutors in those instances failed to enter key documents into the record. “It was clearly an oversight,” the three-judge panel wrote, “but the mistake leaves a crucial gap in the evidence on those counts.”

Even so, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson told Durham, dressed in a white T-shirt, tan prison pants and blue canvas loafers, that the dismissals aren’t enough to reduce the court’s 50-year sentence based on the severity of his crimes.

“When I look at the huge number of victims and the amount of devastation … I don’t find any basis to alter the court’s calculation,” she said.

Prosecutors had sought a 225-year sentence for the Indianapolis businessman, who was found guilty in June 2012 of looting Akron, Ohio-based Fair Finance Co. to prop up failing businesses and support his lavish lifestyle. Fair’s 5,200 investors—mom-and-pop Ohioans who bought unsecured certificates—lost more than $200 million when the company shut down in November 2009.

The two dismissals only slightly change the math, reducing the calculation under federal sentencing guidelines from 225 years to 185 years. But Durham’s sentence fell below the guideline range anyway, Magnus-Stinson reasoned.

Durham’s court-appointed lawyer, Kenneth Riggins, sought a sentence similar to what Fair Finance co-owner Jim Cochran received for his role in the Ponzi scheme. He was convicted on eight of 12 felony fraud counts and received 25 years. Fair Chief Financial Officer Rick Snow, convicted on five of 12 counts, got 10.

Magnus-Stinson rejected the Durham's argument.

“It was very clear, Mr. Durham, that you were the boss and Mr. Cochran worked for you,” she said.

The judge, however, did applaud Durham for teaching mathematics and personal finance courses to fellow inmates to help them obtain general educational development degrees.

Durham is serving his time at the McCreary U.S. Penitentiary in Pine Knot, Kentucky.

“I’m a little nervous about the [personal finance course], but that’s good,” Magnus-Stinson chided.

Following the judge’s resentencing decision, Durham asked the court to file a notice of appeal on his behalf.

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