Correction to This Article
A Nov. 14 article on the corruption conviction of Ohio coin dealer Tom Noe said the trial was held in federal court. It was held in a Lucas County court.

Ohio Jury Convicts Ex-GOP Fundraiser

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

CHICAGO, Nov. 13 -- A federal jury in Toledo concluded Monday that former Republican fundraiser and coin dealer Tom Noe swindled the Ohio government in a risky investment scheme that raised doubts about GOP leadership and contributed to last week's virtual Democratic sweep of statewide offices.

Jurors convicted Noe, 52, a former county chairman who helped raise more than $100,000 in 2004 for the Bush-Cheney ticket, of 29 of 40 counts, including theft, corruption and forgery. He faces at least 10 years in prison for stealing from the state workers' compensation fund and trying to hide his actions.

Noe's trial, with its vivid testimony of lined pockets and bogus transactions, made headlines in the three weeks before Election Day. The details -- starting with the very idea of investing $50 million in rare coins -- provided fodder for Democratic advertisements and voter angst.

The damage to the chances of Republicans, who held every statewide office before last week's vote cost them a seat in the U.S. Senate, as well as the governor's chair, was significant even before the 12 jurors and four alternates took their seats in the courtroom.

Along the way, the investigation touched Gov. Bob Taft (R), who pleaded no contest in August 2005 to accepting secret gifts from Noe and others. Members of the governor's staff admitted to borrowing money from Noe or using his Florida home.

Noe pleaded guilty this past May to a charge of illegally funneling $45,000 to President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. Prosecutors said he arranged for friends, including elected officials, to donate money, then reimbursed them. He was later named one of 19 Ohio "Pioneers," who had raised more than $100,000 for the ticket.

Critics used the charges against Noe, who soon resigned from the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Turnpike Commission, to argue that Republicans had become the party of corruption from Columbus to Washington.

Noe's misdeeds were mentioned in tandem with wrongdoing of Rep. Robert W. Ney (R), who quit the House after pleading guilty to accepting gifts and contributions in return for official actions. Among the benefactors and beneficiaries were lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients.

The Toledo coin case involved two chunks of money entrusted to Noe by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, which gave him $25 million to invest in 1998 and another $25 million in 2001. The idea was to diversify a $15 billion portfolio, but things did not work out.

Evidence from Noe's bookkeeper showed that on the day he received the first $25 million, he paid off a $396,000 bank debt and transferred $1 million to his coin shop. As time went on, investigators said, Noe wrote himself $1.8 million in checks, bought a boat and wrote $1.5 million in checks to contractors and vendors.

He bought only a few coins.

"Tom thought that we could always make up the money and always make it good," testified Timothy LaPointe, Noe's business partner, who said he falsified invoices to trick state auditors and profited nicely.

"I did it for the money," LaPointe said, "and I did it for Tom."

Noe did not present any witnesses in his defense. His attorney told the jury that his client had done nothing wrong.

Assistant Lucas County prosecutor John Weglian offered a different version, telling jurors in closing arguments on Election Day: "The moment he got control, he began stealing."

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