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Tim Durham, ‘Madoff of the Midwest,’ seeks release from prison

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Tim Durham, the Indianapolis businessman convicted of cheating investors out of more than $200 million, will return to a federal courtroom in the city next week, hoping to convince a judge to release him from prison.

Durham will use a four-day hearing that begins May 31 to make his case that his conviction and 50-year prison sentence are the result of sloppy work by his legal team.

Durham’s request, originally filed five years ago, cites 12 errors by his lead attorney, John Tompkins, and his legal team during the trial and sentencing process.

“There is little doubt that had Tompkins performed as required, Durham would have been found not guilty on all counts or at least, his sentence would have been decades shorter,” Durham wrote in the court papers.

Durham, who is now acting as his own attorney, calls Tompkins incompetent and a liar, and claims he took a $1 million advance payment and failed to do much of the most basic trial preparation. 

“Tompkins lied extensively because he simply wanted to keep the entire $1,000,000 advance and basically ‘threw’ the trial and sentencing,” Durham claims in his case.

Durham is scheduled to remain in a federal prison until 2055 after a federal jury convicted him and two business partners in 2012 of charges including securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.

Investigators say Durham and his partners used their companies Obsidian and Fair Finance to cheat more than 5,000 investors out of more than $200 million.

Federal authorities at the time labeled it the worst-ever white collar crime in the history of Indiana, and compared Durham to Bernie Madoff, the New York financier whose ponzi scheme had losses estimated at more than $60 billion.

Jane Kalina, her brother and sister were in the courtroom in 2012 on behalf of their father, who had invested more than $170,000 in Fair Finance.

“My dad has cried, he stayed up nights worrying,” Jane Kalina told News 8 after Durham’s conviction. “He felt he’s a failure, and basically, he felt like he was fool.”

Federal prosecutors say Durham and his partners used the company’s money as their own piggy bank to fund a lavish lifestyle of big homes and fast cars.  

Current Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett was the U.S. Attorney spearheading the case against Tim Durham. 

“It was Mr. Durham’s selfish, destructive actions that squandered American middle class economic strength,” said Hogsett.

It’s unclear when the federal judge will issue a ruling.

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