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National Lampoon chief arrested in alleged $200-million Ponzi scheme

March 16, 2011 |  8:28 am

Timothy Durham, chief executive officer of National Lampoon Inc., is taken into the Federal Building in Westwood by FBI agents.

Read Timothy Durham's arrest warrant. The chief executive officer of National Lampoon Inc., the comedy brand behind "Animal House" and the "Vacation" movie franchise, was arrested early Wednesday in West Hollywood in connection with an alleged $200-million Ponzi scheme, federal authorities said.

DOCUMENT: Arrest warrant for Timothy Durham

Timothy Durham, 48, is accused in a federal grand jury indictment of defrauding investors through his loan company and using the money to support expensive homes and cars, a 100-foot yacht and travel on a personal jet.

The arrest and indictment come two years after the FBI raided two of Durham's businesses -- Obsidian Enterprises of Indianapolis and Fair Financial of Akron, Ohio. Also named in the 23-page grand jury indictment were business associates James F. Cochran and Rick D. Snow.

All three each face 12 counts in connection with securities and wire fraud. Durham, who could not immediately be reached for comment, is scheduled to appear Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Shortly after purchasing Fair Financial in 2002, Durham and Cochran began to alter the business, the indictment said.

"Instead of using the majority of the money that Fair raised from investors through the sale of investment certificates for Fair's consumer financing business, Durham and Cochran began using investor money to make loans to themselves, to their family, friends, and acquaintances, and to businesses they owned or control," the indictment stated.

Durham became CEO of National Lampoon in 2009 after his predecessor, Donald Laikin, was arrested and charged in 2008 with allegedly manipulating the stock of the Los Angeles-based company.

Durham had sought to revive the flagging brand and its now-shuttered "National Lampoon" humor magazine.

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-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Timothy Durham, chief executive officer of National Lampoon Inc., is taken into the Federal Building in Westwood by FBI agents. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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