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Tim Durham Sentence: 50 Years in Prison

The party is really over for convicted Indianapolis Ponzi schemer Tim Durham. The once big spender will be spending the next 50 years of his life in prison. U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus Stinson announced Durham’s sentence today at approximately 2 p.m.

Durham, 50, was convicted in June of securities fraud, conspiracy and 10 counts of wire fraud for bilking 5,000 investors in Ohio-base Fair Finance out of more than $200 million. Many of the investors were elderly.

Judge Magnus Stinson’s sentence was much less than the 225 years that the state was pursuing. The judge noted, however, that it was “effectively” a life sentence. She told Durham it was easy for him to donate to charity and politicians because he was using other people’s money and that he was trying to play the system.

Durham took the stand on Friday, but no one testified on his behalf. Ten individuals, including Durham’s mother, did write character letters for Durham in which they described him as gentle, loving, charitable and unselfish.

While on the stand, Durham stated that he felt “bad” for investigators, telling the court that he didn’t know people invested on an individual basis and wishes he was clearer about some things.

Earlier this week, Durham’s attorney, John Tompkins, lobbied unsuccessfully for his client’s sentence to reduced to five years.

“We believe that (five years) is well-supported by the law,” Durham’s attorney John Tompkins told The Indianapolis Star. Tompkins argued that Durham deserves a shorter sentence because “the seriousness of Mr. Durham’s offenses is substantially overstated.”

Prosecutors, meanwhile, saw Durham’s crimes in a different light.

“Durham is responsible for one of the largest and most brazen frauds in Midwest history, and due to its terrible impact on the victims, also one of the most egregious frauds in history,” prosecutors stated in initial charging documents.

Durham and Fair Finance co-owner Jim Cochran (who was convicted on eight of 12 felony charges) bought Fair Finance in a 2002 leveraged buyout. Following the purchase of the business, court documents say Durham drained tens of millions from Fair Finance by making loans to himself and several failing businesses he owned. Millions of dollars also went toward Durham’s mansions, including one in the swanky neighborhood of Geist Reservoir in Indianapolis, a yacht, part ownership of an airplane, remodeling of his garage and $150,000 at one casino.

Rick Snow, Fair Finance’s chief financial officer, was convicted on five of 12 counts.

Cochran and Snow also will be sentenced Friday.

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