Tim Durham

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Timothy Shawn "Tim" Durham (born 1962) is an American lawyer and financier convicted in 2012 of the largest white collar crime in Indiana history.[1] His investment firm Obsidian Enterprises invested in a number of companies, including wireless device company BrightPoint and comedy brand National Lampoon, Incorporated, where Durham served as CEO.[2] In 2012, Durham was sentenced to 50 years in prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 5,400 investors, many of them elderly, of approximately $216 million, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Durham grew up in Seymour, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana University and its law school. He worked for Ice Miller after graduation, and In 1989 he married Joan SerVaas. Their son Timothy Durham, Jr. (born 1990) attended University of Southern California.[4]

Durham soon joined the investment firm owned by his wife's father, Indianapolis financier Beurt SerVaas. Durham left the firm after his 1998 divorce. Durham was involved in taking over numerous ailing companies, including school bus manufacturer Carpenter, cargo trailer makers Danzer Industries and United Expressline, U.S. Rubber Reclaiming, and bus leasing firm Pyramid Coach.

In 2001, he took his company Obsidian public. The public company then invested in a range of companies, including a rally-car builder, a plastic surgery center, a car magazine, a tour bus operator, a limousine rental company, a nightclub, an Italian restaurant, and a cell-phone billing processor. Obsidian also invested in mobile device distributor BrightPoint and National Lampoon, Incorporated. From 2001 to 2006, Obsidian had cumulative losses of $30 million, according to the bankruptcy trustee. During that time Obsidian was borrowing heavily from Fair Finance Company, an Akron, Ohio-based creditor. Durham and accomplice James Cochran had acquired Fair Finance through a holding company in 2002.[5] Durham appointed Dan Laikin as CEO of National Lampoon Inc. The SEC alleged Laikin conspired to inflate the company's stock price to $5 in order to prevent the company from being delisted from the American Stock Exchange.[6] Laikin alerted authorities to Durham's financial schemes in hopes of getting a reduced sentence. Durham took over as Lampoon CEO after Laikin stepped down.

The offices of Obsidian and Fair Finance were raided by federal agents in 2009, suspected of involvement in a Ponzi scheme. Durham was arrested in 2011.[7] He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in November 2012.[8]

Reported by Indianapolis Star, September 4, 2014, a federal appeals court overturned two of 10 wire fraud counts against Indianapolis businessman Timothy Durham, saying prosecutors failed to enter some key evidence into the trial record. [1]

Durham's mother, Mitza Durham, agreed to repay Fair Finance Co. $500,000, plus interest. Fair Finance Co. trustee Brian Bash alleged in a lawsuit filed in 2012 that Mitza Durham received more than $828,521 in "fraudulent transfers" from her son between 2006 and 2009 that needed to be repaid to the company estate. [2]

Political activism[edit]

According to Businessweek, "Durham was one of [Indiana's] biggest backers of Republican politicians. Durham sat on Mitch Daniels's reelection steering committee in 2004 and headed state fundraising for Rudolph Giuliani's 2008 Presidential campaign."[3]


External links[edit]