Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Give The Money Back, Carl

The campaign finance report of former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi filed this week shows his campaign committee still has a cash balance of over $401,000. Brizzi received $225,000 in campaign contributions from Ponzi scheme operator Tim Durham, who bled his Ohio-based Fair Finance Company dry and robbed small investors in rural Ohio of more than $200 million, representing the entire life savings for many of the investors. According to the bankruptcy trustee for Fair Finance, Durham looted the company by loaning the funds invested to businesses linked to him and his friends that were never repaid. At the same time, Durham spread close to $1 million around to various Indiana politicians, the biggest recipients of which were Brizzi and Gov. Mitch Daniels. Daniels, who received at least $195,000 from Durham, contends the gubernatorial campaign to which the contributions were made by Durham had already spent all of the money it received from Durham and no longer exists. Bankruptcy Trustee Brian Bash sent letters to Brizzi, Daniels and other politicians last year asking them to return the contributions to the trustee for the benefit of the investors defrauded by Fair Finance.

Although Brizzi was not a candidate for re-election last year, his campaign committee still managed to burn through over $111,000. Brizzi purchased a new computer for his campaign committee and spent thousands on campaign staff, overhead and other campaign-related expenses despite having no campaign. Brizzi spent several thousand dollars purchasing gifts for employees and friends at places like Keystone Fashion Mall, Starbucks, Brown & Joseph and Posh Petals. He spent thousands of dollars on dining at some of Indianapolis' finest restaurants, including Harry & Izzy's, in which he owns an interest. The committee paid for a hotel room at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago to attend the Indiana Society's annual get-out-of-town dinner for the state's movers and shakers. Brizzi spent nearly $10,000 on legal expenses with the law firm of Taft, Stettinus & Hollister, the same law firm that coincidentally represented Tim Durham in Fair Finance's bankruptcy case before it requested permission from the bankruptcy trustee to withdraw as counsel. Brizzi served on Fair Finance's board of directors for a short period until the IBJ's Greg Andrews began an investigative series that questioned the financial decisions made by the company. Brizzi abruptly resigned from the board, telling the IBJ he had no idea there were problems with the company before he agreed to serve on its board.

Let's face it. Carl's political career is at an end. If this man had any decency or compassion for the unfortunate people who lost their life savings in Fair Finance, he would return all of the contributions Durham made to him to the bankruptcy trustee for the benefit of those who were defrauded. To continue using the fund as a personal cash cow as he is beneath decency. I would urge the bankruptcy trustee to file a lawsuit against his campaign committee seeking recovery of the funds if he doesn't reach that conclusion on his own.

UPDATE: Bankruptcy Trustee Brian Bash tells the Akron Beacon-Journal his investigation of what happened to the more than $200 million is nearing an end, and he expects to wrap up the initiation of additional lawsuits against parties from whom he will seek returned funds within the next 30 days:

The investigation into what happened with more than $200 million of Fair Finance Co.'s money is nearly over, says the trustee overseeing the Akron firm's bankruptcy.

In 30 days, details should be ''known to all,'' trustee Brian Bash said Tuesday.

''We are pretty much through the investigative piece of the puzzle here. There are some odds and ends we have to do,'' Bash said during a monthly teleconference status update in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Akron. ''We have dealt with more than 70 entities. It has been no easy task.'' . . .
The trustee said he expects to file additional lawsuits against people he believes owe a lot of money to the Fair Finance estate. In other court documents, including a lawsuit filed Friday seeking $1.2 million from the brother-in-law of Fair Finance co-owner Timothy Durham, Bash has said the company had been ''utterly looted'' since 2002 by insider loans.

''The [lawsuit] activity is going to significantly increase after mid-February,'' Bash said.

Bash said his investigation also looked into whether any holders of Fair Finance investment certificates had been colluding, or were ''in cahoots'' with Fair Finance and cashed out their money before the offices closed in November 2009.

There is no evidence so far that shows any collusion involving certificate holders, he said. The investigation looked at $48 million in interest payments sent to certificate holders from 2006 through 2009, he said.

''That is the analysis right now,'' Bash said.
Bash emphasized his comments were in regards to civil matters only. The U.S. Attorney's office in Indianapolis is responsible for conducting the criminal investigation according to Bash. If past is prologue, the Indianapolis office will dump the case in the trash since it has a long history of burying high profile public corruption cases, including the well-documented FBI investigation of the give-away of the Lawrence water utility under former Mayor Tom Schneider to his political cronies and FBI investigations into the corruption surrounding the awarding of Indiana's riverboat and horse racing licenses.


Paul K. Ogden said...

I don't know if you saw it or not, Gary, but Brizzi spent $500 on an airline ticket to Atlanta on 12/21, over 11 months after the dropped out of the race.

Do these people not know that a campaign fund is not a personal slush fund that you can spend any way you want? How is that trip to Atlanta related to Brizzi's campaign?

Gary R. Welsh said...

He also paid his annual attorney registration fee out of his campaign account. Did you notice he gave Whitney Mounts, his former political director, over $6,000 for her health insurance premiums?

Unknown said...

This is just such a joke. No one in Indianapolis will ever do anything to Carl, in part because so many "connected" and "well placed" people allegedly also traded on inside information on Cellstar at the same time Brizzi did.

The reason white collar crime happens in Indianapolis is because it can. 1) You get rich and 2) no one prosecutes you. What a total joke this community is

Concerned Taxpayer said...

You know, if we're going to have this much dishonesty, disregard of the law, and shoddy representation, this city deserves to become completely democrat.

dcrutch said...

Based one the magnitude of local corruption covered in Cady's book, with the decline of mainstream investigative reporting, I'd guess Brizzi is just the declining tip of a growing iceberg.

That begs the question of when am I again going to donate to those still in the saddle? In this first quarter, I believe. Thank you for what you do.