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Indiana financier, ex-Lampoon chief gets 50 years in prison for bilking investors of $200M

An Indiana financier and former chief executive of National Lampoon convicted of swindling investors out of about $200 million was sentenced Friday to 50 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson sentenced Timothy Durham. Two of Durham's associates, James Cochran and Rick Snow, were to be sentenced later Friday.

A jury in June found the three men guilty of securities fraud and conspiracy. It also convicted Durham, a major Indiana Republican Party donor who resigned his post at National Lampoon in January, of 10 counts of wire fraud, while Cochran and Snow were convicted on some of those counts.

Prosecutors have said the three stripped Akron, Ohio-based Fair Finance of its assets and used the money to buy mansions, classic cars and other luxury items and to keep another of Durham's company afloat. The men were convicted of operating an elaborate Ponzi scheme to hide the company's depleted condition from regulators and investors, many of whom were elderly.

Durham's attorney, John Tompkins, argued at trial that Durham and the others were caught off-guard by the economic crisis of 2008, and bewildered when regulators placed them under more strict scrutiny and investors made a run on the company.

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said none of the three has shown remorse for their crimes and each deserved the life sentence recommended in a probation report.

"Durham has earned a place among the greediest, most selfish and remorseless of criminals," Hogsett wrote in a sentencing memorandum earlier this week.

Attorneys for all three men had asked the judge for lighter sentences than those recommended. Tompkins sought a total of five years for Durham — three years in prison and two years of home detention.

Attorneys for Snow and Cochran didn't specify a sentence, but Snow's attorney, Jeffrey Baldwin, noted that former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to less than 25 years in prison after his convictions on 29 counts of fraud and conspiracy and that former WorldCom Inc. CEO Bernard Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of nine felonies including securities fraud in a loss of more than $1 billion.

The charges against Durham led several GOP politicians, including Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, to return hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions sought by Fair Finance's bankruptcy trustee.

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