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One would think that presiding over multi-million-dollar cult franchises like “Animal House” and the Chevy Chase “Vacation” series would be enough for a dude. (Even a dude skeezy enough to become CEO of National Lampoon, the sex-comedy empire that now stoops to crapping out hormonal slop like “Stoned Age” and “The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell” every few months.)

But no. The company's CEO, 48-year-old Tim Durham, apparently needed an extra source of income to support his luxury fleet of land-, water- and airmobiles — hence the $200 million ponzi scheme of which feds are now accusing him, along with business buddies James Cochran and Rick Snow [Los Angeles Times].

Slimy doesn't begin to describe this thing:

An FBI investigation and raid of Durham's two side-businesses — Obsidian Enterprises and Fair Financial — found that the three men had been defrauding investors, then using the money to gift themselves (and their families and friends, awww) giant loans.

Durham's been high on the FBI's sketch list for a while now; former raids include the confiscation of 15 fly-as-hell sports cars, worth about $2.2 million.

According to the Times, Durham “was arrested Wednesday in West Hollywood in connection with an alleged $200-million Ponzi scheme, federal authorities said.” In addition:

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. …

“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.

National Lampoon's downward spiral in quality has coincided with a trend in skeezy leadership. Durham's predecessor, former Lampoon CEO Dan Laikin, was charged with manipulating the L.A. company's own stock in 2008. What a legacy, right?

At the time, the Los Angeles Business Journal ran a hopeful profile Laikin's replacement, quite amusing in hindsight:

The son of a dentist, Durham grew up in a small Indiana town. He isn't shy about wanting to play in the big leagues, though: He has said he dreams of becoming the richest man in the world, but acknowledges he lacks the discipline that would demand.

“I didn't have excess cash growing up,” Durham told the Business Journal. “I paid my way through school; I paid for my first car. I know how much money it takes to live, and you don't have to have a lot. So anything I make beyond that is excess. And if it's excess, it's a game, right?”

The concept of playing to win is part of his philosophy.

As of this morning, in the played-out words of another flaky L.A. millionaire whose spending habits are bigger than his bootstraps, Durham is definitely not winning.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

LA Weekly