23 July 2005

Petro: Noe stole millions

Coin deals described as 'Ponzi' scheme

James Drew and Steve Eder - July 22, 2005

COLUMBUS — Tom Noe stole millions of dollars from the state and used a “Ponzi” scheme to fabricate profits within the state’s $50 million rare-coin investment, Ohio’s attorney general said yesterday.

“There was an absolute theft of funds going on,” Attorney General Jim Petro said.

Mr. Petro said there is evidence that Mr. Noe pocketed nearly $4 million in money invested with the coin fund through the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation since 1998.

Mr. Petro asked a judge to further restrict the former Toledo-area coin dealer from selling personal assets because he believes they may have been purchased with state money.

State officials yesterday laid out a complicated scheme of payments between companies Mr. Noe controlled, which they say resulted in the theft of state money.

The attorney general said the theft began on March 31, 1998, the day Mr. Noe received the first of two $25 million payments from the workers’ compensation bureau, and continued until late May — more than eight weeks after The Blade first reported on April 3 that there were problems with the state’s investment.

“On Day One, Tom Noe took $1.375 million and put it in his personal or his business account,” Mr. Petro said. Records show that Mr. Noe immediately began using the state’s money for his personal use, the attorney general said.

A week later, Mr. Noe and his wife, Bernadette, made $4,500 in contributions to then-Secretary of State Bob Taft’s campaign for governor.

In the three months after the $1.375 million transfer of state funds, Mr. Noe made thousands of dollars in political contributions, including an additional $2,500 to Mr. Taft, $2,000 to then-Gov. George Voinovich’s Senate campaign, and $500 to Mr. Petro’s campaign for re-election to the state auditor post he held before becoming attorney general.

When asked if he believed the state’s money had been used for campaign contributions, Mr. Petro said: “I don’t see that. I mean, clearly, Tom Noe personally contributed to campaigns and the source of his funds could very well be public money.”

But Mr. Petro connected the dots on Mr. Noe’s personal purchases, saying the Noes used “public money” to acquire millions of dollars worth of homes, cars, and boats.

Mr. Noe’s attorneys acknowledged on May 26 that up to $13 million in state assets is missing from the coin funds, but they have not shed any light into what happened to the state’s money.

Mr. Noe did not return telephone calls yesterday, and Judson Scheaf, a Columbus attorney who is representing him, declined to respond to Mr. Petro’s claims that Mr. Noe illegally converted nearly $4 million in state money, except to say: “Mr. Petro will have to prove his case in court.”

Mr. Noe, who has contributed more than $200,000 to political candidates, parties, and committees, is facing multiple federal and state investigations, including a probe into whether he illegally funneled money into President Bush’s re-election campaign last year.


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