10/11/2005

Toledoblade: Noe transferred coin cash before giving to GOP politicians

This is the story the GOP reporter kept under his pillow before the elections -- law

Noe transferred coin cash before giving to politicians
Records show deposits into personal business account

COLUMBUS — Tom Noe often transferred tens of thousands of dollars from the Ohio rare-coin funds he managed to his personal business before bankrolling Republican candidates and causes with contributions and loans.

A Blade examination of the accounting records from Mr. Noe’s $50 million rare-coin venture shows a pattern of large sums of money moving from the coin funds to his personal business, Vintage Coins and Collectibles, in the days and weeks before the coin dealer and his wife, Bernadette, made contributions to Republican candidates ranging from President Bush to U.S. Sen. George Voinovich and Gov. Bob Taft down to Lucas County Auditor Larry Kaczala.

Mr. Noe typically listed the payments from the coin funds to Vintage Coins as "profit distributions" or "coin purchases."

But both of those explanations have been assailed as fraudulent by Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, who has branded Mr.

Noe a thief and accused the former Toledo-area coin dealer of running a Ponzi scheme and making questionable coin trades with the state fund.

Last month, Mr. Petro accused Mr. Noe of diverting coin-fund money to his personal business and then to his personal checking account to pay for his former Catawba Island home, landscape his home in the Florida Keys, and pay off a business loan. Mr. Petro said the accusations largely came from "tracking the flow of dollars" out of the coin funds to Mr. Noe’s personal accounts and measuring the "proximity of the transfers" before large purchases or payments.

According to the computerized accounting records of Capital Coin I, II, and their subsidiaries, Mr. Noe since 1998 transferred more than $19 million from the state coin venture into his business accounts at Vintage Coins, including more than $13 million for "coin purchases" and more than $1.7 million in "profit distributions." In that same time period, Vintage Coins transferred about $5 million back to the coin funds, the records show.

As Mr. Petro lodged accusations about how Mr. Noe bought houses and paid-off loans with state coin fund money, he stopped short of making claims about how the coin dealer paid for political contributions and loans he and his wife doled out, totaling more than $300,000 since 1998 — the year he received his first installment of $25 million from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to invest in rare coins.

Mr. Petro, who has returned $6,100 in campaign contributions from the Noes because of concerns that the money could have come from state funds, said during a news conference that coin-fund money could have been used for political purposes, but his office is focusing on "personal resources" in building its civil case against the coin dealer.

William Wilkinson, a Columbus attorney representing Mr. Noe, said no state coin funds were used to make campaign contributions.

"Look at the coin-fund check register. You don’t see any checks written to any campaign committees," he said.

Mr. Wilkinson said Mr. Petro never would be able to prove that Mr. Noe used coin funds to make political contributions — or for any other personal use — because those dollars "lost their identity" when they joined dollars from other sources in the Noes’ bank account.

Mr. Petro, in announcing his new allegations last month, said that on at least five occasions without coin-fund money being diverted to his personal accounts, Mr. Noe would have had insufficient funds to cover checks he had written.

- toledoblade.com -

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