Former Ohio Insurance Official Admits Taking Bribes

A former senior official at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation admitted Wednesday to taking bribes for government investment opportunities, including $25,000 he says he accepted from a man who handled the agency's investment in rare coins.

Terrence Gasper, former chief financial officer at Ohio's insurance fund for injured workers, pleaded guilty in federal court to a racketeering charge and in state court to money laundering and failing to report gifts. He said he was working with prosecutors in their continuing investigation of the investment scandal.

The investigation has shaken the state's Republican-dominated government. It led to ethics charges against Gov. Bob Taft, who pleaded no contest for failing to report gifts such as golf outings, and to the ouster of the bureau's administrator, the firing of its chief investment officer and an overhaul of the fund's investment operations.

Gasper, 59, was the first official at the workers' comp agency to be charged. Franklin County Prosecutor O'Brien said Wednesday at a news conference after Gasper's hearing that he expects more people to be charged this month. He would not elaborate.

Gasper acknowledged in his federal case that he accepted tuition for his son and stays at a Florida condominium for business deals with the bureau's $15 billion investment fund.

In exchange for the alleged $25,000 bribe, Gasper recommended a second investment of $25 million with coin dealer Tom Noe, the prominent GOP donor at the heart of the state political scandal, prosecutors said.

The agency agreed to Gasper's recommendation to investment more with Noe, who has pleaded not guilty to state charges of stealing more than $1 million from the coin fund.

Noe agreed at a 2001 meeting at a downtown restaurant to invest $25,000 in a business run by Gasper's girlfriend, O'Brien said. But the business investment was a disguise for the bribe to Gasper, he said.

Noe pleaded guilty last month to illegally funneling about $45,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign.

The ethics law violations by Gasper involve 150 instances where he received gifts, such as travel, meals and sport tickets, from 1999 through 2004 that he did not report, O'Brien said. Some items came from people doing business with the bureau, he said.