Fair Finance Co. investors, hopeful that the Akron-area offices would reopen today at 9 a.m., were greeted by other investors outside the locked doors.
One man, who asked that his name not be used because of feelings of embarrassment, camped out in front of the East Market Street headquarters in Akron at 7:30 a.m.
He had set up a plastic chair in front of the doors, though he wasn't sitting in it.
''I feel like a nut who sits outside Best Buy,'' he said, referring to shoppers who camp out for special holiday sales.
Still, the man said he wasn't expecting the offices to open.
''I haven't had a lot of hope,'' he said. He said he bought $145,000 in Fair Finance investment certificates and came armed with paperwork showing four powers of attorney for other friends he had steered toward Fair Finance to see if he could get their money out.
Biblical verses typed on a full-page letter have been taped to the double-glass doors of the front entrance, below a previously posted sign stating: DUE TO UNFORSEE CIRCUMSTANCES, FAIR FINANCIAL SERVICES IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED. WE LOOK FORWARD TO SERVING YOU UPON OUR REOPENING.
Ron Kaffen, an Akron lawyer who represented Fair Finance for years in securities dealings with the state of Ohio, said he had no information on when or whether the Akron-based business' offices would re-open. The investment and loan company also does business as Fair Financial; its products are not government insured.
John Tompkins, an Indianapolis-based lawyer who represents businesses in Indiana affiliated with Fair Finance, could not be reached for comment today. Tompkins last week said Fair Finance executives hoped to reopen offices this week but said that depended in large part on getting back computers and documents seized in an FBI raid Nov. 24.
The Ohio Division of Securities is waiting to hear from Fair Finance on whether the business will reopen its offices, said spokesman Dennis Ginty.
Authorities have alleged in court documents that Fair Finance and related companies with connections to Fair Chief Executive Timothy Durham of Indianapolis are part of a Ponzi scheme, which uses new money from investors to pay interest and principal to existing investors. The schemes collapse when the new money can't keep up with the existing investors.
No arrests or charges have been made in the case.
Fair Finance says it buys and manages accounts receivables from other businesses. The company, founded in Akron in 1934, was sold in 2002 to a company run by Durham and partner James Cochran.
At the Akron headquarters, the investor with the chair said his late mother had invested with Fair Finance for 35 years before she passed away. He has invested with the company for four years.
The man said he was debating earlier this year whether to renew his investments and expressed that doubt to a Fair Finance office worker. He said that he was called back by the chief financial officer ''to personally assure me.''
Several investors waiting at the East Market headquarters said they also tried to go to the Cuyahoga Falls State Road branch, which was also closed.
Another man at the Akron branch said he waited a week ago today, when a company voice mail message said it would reopen that day after being closed for the full Thanksgiving holiday week. The FBI raided the offices on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
The man declined to say how much he had invested in Fair Finance.
''I won't even tell my wife. She'll kill me,'' said the man, who also declined to give his name.
By 9:15, a group of about eight investors left as a light snow began to fall.
Mark N. Carson of Cuyahoga Falls arrived by 9:30, saying he'd hoped he could talk to someone at the offices.
''It's irritating that they're not answering'' any questions,'' he said.
Carson, 60, said he had surgery the day before the Fair offices were raided.
Carson, a surveyor, has invested $50,000 in Fair Finance for four years. He inherited money from his mother and said his now-late father suggested he invest in Fair Finance.
It's not just investors who are wondering what to do.
Valerie Smith of St. Louis, Mo., said she wondered why her $168.42 monthly payment to Fair hadn't yet been taken from a bank account on Dec. 4. Today, she discovered newspaper articles about the company.
Smith had used Fair to finance her approximately $2,700 bill for laser hair removal. She has about $600 left to pay.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Beacon Journal business writer Jim Mackinnon contributed to this story.