A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments Feb. 29 in a request to unseal an FBI affidavit that led to the November 2009 search of Fair Finance Co. business offices in Akron and Indianapolis, court officials said Wednesday.
Attorneys for the Akron Beacon Journal and the Indianapolis Business Journal filed the request to unseal all of the Fair Finance search warrant records, arguing that “transparency in the investigation” was needed for the many Ohio and Indiana investors who were victims of the alleged scheme.
The arguments will be heard before a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Fair Finance’s business operations ended immediately after the 2009 FBI raid, with court documents showing investigators suspected that company owners had been operating what is called a Ponzi scheme since buying the business in 2002.
The records were sealed by U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi in a federal court action in Akron.
Lioi ruled against the newspapers’ request to unseal the records in August 2010, saying the government’s criminal investigation is ongoing. Unsealing the records, the judge asserted, would reveal “a virtual road map” of the federal probe.
Beacon Journal attorney Karen C. Lefton of the law firm Brouse McDowell will argue before the Sixth Circuit court to have the records unsealed.
“The most important thing to come out of this,” Lefton said Wednesday, “is that we will get an assessment from the court on whether it’s proper to shut down a business and have no public record documenting the search of that business or the basis upon which the search was conducted.”
The FBI’s search-warrant records were partially unsealed in March, revealing that federal agents seized more than 200 business computers, computer servers, filing cabinets and other Fair Finance records, but the agency’s affidavit used to obtain the warrant remained under seal.
About 5,300 Ohio residents and organizations, mainly in the Akron area, had invested more than $218 million in Fair Finance’s uninsured but high-interest-yielding investment certificates.
Timothy Durham, the Indiana-based co-owner of the business, and others are awaiting trial in federal court on charges that they were operating a Ponzi scheme.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at email@example.com.