Investors react to Durham interview
Chris Proffitt/Eyewitness News
Akron, Ohio - Former clients of Tim Durham, out $200 million, are speaking out about the Indianapolis businessman.
The $200 million figure represents life savings, retirements, caring for sick parents and college educations. Durham's Fair Finance, based in Akron, Ohio, closed one year ago after an FBI raid.
"I just hope he can sleep at night, knowing that he messed up a lot of people's lives," said Glenn Byous.
Akron is a working class city, home to Goodyear Tire and, for the past year, a footnote in a long list of spectacular business failures that wiped out small and large family fortunes. These days, they call it "UnFair Finance," shut down last year after the FBI raid on it's owner's companies.
Eyewitness News returned to Akron so that a small group of investors could hear from Durham for the first time in a wide-ranging Eyewitness News interview about what went wrong.
"Well, I feel terrible for them. I feel terrible for my mom and dad and the employees at Fair and all of the investors in Ohio. It's a terrible situation," Durham said in the interview.
Denny Ault, Larry Heidy, and Glenn Byous all invested with Fair, enticed by interest rates as high as 9.5 percent.
"I believe him less now than I did before. I had more faith in him before I heard him talk," Heidy said.
What struck the investors about Durham's interview?
"Just the fact that he said he wanted to get part of the record straight," Byous said. "What about the part he doesn't want to get straight? That he wants to keep himself or keep hidden?"
"If I wronged somebody, I'm going to try to make it right. Man up!" Ault said. "And I don't see that in him."
What did Ault see in Durham?
"Pride. Too much pride," he said.
Ault doesn't want to reveal how much money he lost when Fair crashed. Heidy says he's out $100,000 and Byous lost half of his retirement fund. They are just three of many Ohioans who purchased more than $200 million in unsecured investment certificates.
Five-thousand people who, in many cases, invested their modest life savings into a trusted Akron company in business since 1934. Most will be lucky if they get back pennies on the dollar and, one year later, it's Tim Durham who they hold responsible.
Durham and a partner bought the company eight years ago and argues in court papers that investors knew the risks.
"I certainly don't think there's a crime and haven't thought there's a crime since day one," Durham said.
"I really don't see him as a crook. I have to say that. I think he got caught up in a mess and he's not man enough to do what needs to be done to help us recover something," Heidy said.
Investors have been told by the Ohio bankruptcy trustee assigned to liquidate Durham's assets that it could take as long as five years to resolve the case.
"A lot of people will be dead by then or their lives ruined," Heidy said.
"People had invested their parents' income to keep them in nursing homes and that's a crying shame," said Ault.
Durham claims he's essentially broke, his net worth wiped out. But the investors, to a man, don't believe it and think Durham has money hidden somewhere. Meanwhile, a year later and the FBI hasn't done anything, at least publicly, with the case.
"I think that we deserve the truth, if nothing else," Heidy said. "Why did the FBI go there? Who turned them onto it? What did they find? Why won't they tell us?"
All the investors have their own idea what they would say if they had a word with Durham.
"I guess I'd have to say he was a twin of Bernie Madoff. I'd have to keep my cool," Ault said.
"He's a small man with a small mind with a big dream," Heidy said.
If Durham's dream, as he once said, was to die the richest man in the world, it's now thousands of Ohioans who are paying for it.