Ohio GOP Fundraiser Slapped With Charges in Rare Coin Scandal

A coin dealer and prominent GOP fundraiser was charged Monday with stealing at least $1 million from a controversial state investment in rare coins that has embroiled Republicans in scandal during an election year.

The 53 charges against Tom Noe conclude a 10-month investigation by state and federal prosecutors into the $50 million rare coin investment Noe managed for the state insurance fund for injured workers.

The investigation led to sweeping changes at the state workers' compensation bureau, an agreement by Gov. Bob Taft and two former aides to plead no contest to ethics charges and pending charges against two other former Taft aides.

Noe is accused of stealing from the investment by writing checks, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars each, knowing the money was not his to use.

His attorney has acknowledged a shortfall of up to $13 million of the money Noe invested for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Prosecutor Julia Bates would not say how much money Noe is accused of stealing. But one of the charges in Monday's indictment accuse him of stealing at least $1 million. The state attorney general has accused Noe of stealing up to $6 million.

Noe, 51, already faced charges of using colleagues and associates to illegally funnel $45,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign. The new counts include forgery, theft, money laundering and tampering with records.

Defense attorney Jon Richardson entered pleas of not guilty on each count on behalf of Noe, who surrendered to authorities Monday and was being held until he can post $500,000 bail.

Although Noe could face up to 172 years in prison if convicted on all counts, a much lower sentence would be likely. The most serious charge of engaging in corrupt activity carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

The investigation was started after The Blade newspaper reported in April that the workers' compensation bureau had invested $50 million in rare coins with Noe.

Last year, Taft pleaded no contest to accepting golf games and other gifts he did not report. Last week, Douglas Talbott and Doug Moormann became the third and fourth former Taft aides charged with ethics violations over their relationship with Noe.

Moormann was a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor and then Taft's executive assistant for business and industry. He was charged with failing to mention on an ethics form that Noe lent him $5,000 in 2004.

Talbott was Taft's director of boards and commissioners. He was accused of failing to report that Noe lent him $39,000 in 2002.

Talbott was also charged with failing to mention his participation in what investigators dubbed the "Noe Supper Club," a frequent steakhouse gathering of state officials hosted and paid for by Noe. In addition, Talbott was accused of illegally funneling $1,960 received from Noe into the campaigns of three Ohio justices.