As many as 40 Wayne County residents have banded together to sue Fair Finance Co., saying the Akron firm owes them nearly $2.2 million.
The lawsuit said the amounts owed range from $2,000 to one member who claims an investment of $500,000.
Twenty members of the group created a limited liability company named Fair Recovery to protect their privacy as part of the lawsuit. Those unnamed members of Fair Recovery say they are owed more than $1.3 million. Twenty other plaintiffs, including two trusts, are named.
The group filed suit Monday in Wayne County Common Pleas Court.
Some of the members of the lawsuit are Amish, said a lawyer representing the group. He did not identify which members of
the suit are part of Wayne County's Amish community.
Fair Finance offices have remained closed since computers and records were seized in an FBI raid Nov. 24 in Akron and at related offices in Indianapolis of co-owner Tim Durham, a prominent Indiana businessman. Durham bought Fair Finance in 2002. No one has been charged or arrested as part of the investigation.
Fair Finance, which does business as Fair Financial, has a satellite office in downtown Wooster across the street from the Everything Rubbermaid store.
Court records show that federal investigators have suspected that Fair Finance, which sells investment certificates to Ohio residents, was being operated as a Ponzi scheme. Fair Finance has said it is getting its computers back from the FBI and intends to resume at least part of its operations that involve managing accounts receivables. Its investment certificates are not government insured.
Ohio residents may have as much as $200 million in outstanding investment certificates with Fair Finance, according to court and state documents.
The Wayne County lawsuit follows a suit filed two weeks ago in Summit County that seeks class-action status against Fair Finance and its related companies. The Akron Beacon Journal and Indianapolis Star newspapers also have filed motions in U.S. district courts in Akron and Indianapolis to unseal search warrants used in the November raids.
The Wayne County suit says the plaintiffs are owed $2,190,051 plus interest and that the group seeks punitive damages.
''Some of the plaintiffs own certificates which have matured on their face and cannot be redeemed since the offices of Fair Finance are not even open for business, and the rest of the plaintiffs own certificates which mature over upcoming months,'' said a news release from the Wooster law firm of Critchfield, Critchfield & Johnston. ''Fair Finance also failed to pay certificate holders their regular monthly interest payments since it shuttered the doors on Nov. 23, 2009. On at least one occasion, Fair Finance issued a check that bounced. The lawsuit seeks a full payment for all certificates, plus interest.''
The lawsuit alleges that Fair Finance is in breach of contract for the investment certificates that have matured, and also alleges the company violated Ohio securities laws and made false statements in offering circulars that Fair Finance gave to prospective customers.
J. Douglas Drushal, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, issued a statement saying that he and others do not have enough information to predict if there is any money available to pay back clients.
''In many cases, these investments represent the life savings of people who cannot afford to lose this money. In other cases, the investments were college savings funds for children, or funds held for support in retirement,'' Drushal said in a news release. ''If Fair Finance cannot make good on its obligations, it will have a devastating impact on very many lives.''
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the southern district of Indiana has said that it continues to investigate Fair Finance, Durham and his related businesses.
Akron-area residents who purchased investment certificates from Fair Finance have said they have received questionnaires from the U.S. Attorney's Office asking extensive information about their purchases.
Neither Durham nor lawyers for Fair Finance who have previously spoken on behalf of him could be reached for comment on the lawsuit.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com.