GOP Fundraiser Gets 18 Years in Prison

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The Associated Press
Monday, November 20, 2006; 9:59 PM

TOLEDO, Ohio -- A GOP fundraiser who embezzled from a state investment in rare coins was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison in a scandal that helped bring down Ohio's ruling Republican Party on Election Day.

Tom Noe, 52, was also fined $139,000.

Noe spent money as if he had "a bottomless cup of wealth and luxury" at his disposal, "when in fact it was at the state's expense," Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik said.

The sentence handed out to the politically connected coin dealer will be on top of the more than two years he was ordered to serve after pleading guilty earlier this year to illegally funneling $45,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign.

Noe was the central figure in a scandal that dogged the Ohio Republican Party for more than a year. On Election Day, the Democrats won the governor's office, a Senate seat and other major offices after 12 years of GOP rule.

Up until Monday, prosecutors did not say whether Noe used any of the money to make campaign contributions. But after the sentencing, Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said, "You can make those inferences."

Also for the first time, prosecutors calculated that Noe stole $13.7 million in all.

Noe was hired by the state workers' compensation agency and given $50 million to invest in an unorthodox and risky attempt by a state government to make money buying and selling rare coins. A furor erupted when the rare-coin investment became public and when it was learned that millions of dollars were missing.

Democrats charged that Noe got the job because of his GOP ties. He was a top fundraiser who gave more than $105,000 to Republicans, including Bush and Gov. Robert Taft in 2004.

The resulting investigations led to ethics charges against Taft, who pleaded no contest to failing to report golf outings and other gifts. Four former Taft aides pleaded no contest to similar charges.

Noe was convicted last week of theft, corrupt activity and other offenses, and faced a minimum of 10 years in prison on the corrupt-activity charge alone.

Prosecutors said he used the money to pay off business loans, renovate his Florida Keys home and otherwise live in high style.

Noe declined to make a statement before sentencing and stared blankly, his upper lip twitching, as his punishment was handed down.

Defense attorney John Mitchell had asked for the minimum 10-year sentence, saying that other high-profile criminals had received less time for taking more money. The lawyer also assured the judge that Noe's offense "was a one-time crime."

© 2006 The Associated Press

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