When it comes to recovering assets for the estate of bankrupt Fair Finance Co., all of the ''low-hanging fruit'' has been plucked, bankruptcy trustee Brian Bash says.
''That leaves medium- and high-hanging fruit to go after,'' Bash said Tuesday in giving a monthly status update on the bankruptcy process in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in downtown Akron.
''All along the plan has been to go after and sell the properties we could readily get our hands on,'' Bash, a Cleveland attorney, said over a telephone conference line in open court. That process is largely finished, he said.
About $900,000 has been brought in by auctioning off most of Fair Finance Co. co-owner Timothy Durham's car collection, Bash said. Three vehicles, which have outstanding issues that include salvage titles, re
main to be sold, he said.
The trustee is also waiting to see how much money, if any, will be available to the estate after the sale of Durham's valuable antique Duesenberg car that sold for $1.35 million. A bank holds a lien on the vehicle, meaning it gets its money first. The car might have been used as collateral for more than one loan, Bash said.
''That is another wrinkle in a case that is full of wrinkles,'' Bash said.
Only two holders of Fair Finance investment certificates were in the bankruptcy courtroom for the 15-minute hearing that started shortly after 11 a.m.
Fair Finance sold more than $200 million of its uninsured investment certificates to about 5,300 Ohio residents and organizations before being forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy in early 2010. Federal investigators who led the FBI to raid the longtime Akron finance company's headquarters and a related business in Indianapolis on Nov. 24, 2009, said in court records they suspect the business was being operated as a Ponzi scheme under its Indiana owners. No one has been arrested or charged.
Bash said he and the biggest buyer of Durham's art collection at an auction in Cleveland last fall are near a settlement that will have the buyer pay ''substantially all of the debt.''
Bash sued Florida art dealer Richard Hart after the dealer, who successfully bid more than $260,000 on Durham-owned artwork, said the sale was canceled and he wasn't obligated to pay.
Bash also said he is near a resolution with Carmel, Ind., attorney Stephen Plopper and Plopper's wife, Linda, whom he had sued in February for $375,000, saying they defaulted on a promissory note with Fair Finance's corporate parent.
Bash said he will be subpoenaing Fair Finance's former auditors and others and filing additional lawsuits in upcoming weeks and months.
''I think we are moving along on all fronts,'' Bash said.
The next regular status update is scheduled for April 12.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.