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Testimony: Coin dealer moved money right away into business



Published: Sat, October 21, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The investment scandal has become a liability for the state's GOP.

TOLEDO (AP) -- On the day a prominent coin dealer received 25 million to invest for the state, he sunk 1 million into his business and paid off a 396,000 bank debt, his former bookkeeper testified Friday.

Tom Noe, once a star Republican fundraiser, is accused of stealing from the unorthodox investment in rare coins and putting the money into his coin shop and spending it on himself.

In the three months after getting the money, Noe transferred 2.75 million from the state investment into his accounts, said Tom Peters, who was Noe's bookkeeper from 1998-99.

Noe is on trial on charges of theft, money laundering, forgery and corrupt activity. He faces up to 10 years in prison on the corrupt activity charge.

His attorneys say the deal with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation allowed him to use the money however he wanted.

Liability for GOP

The investment scandal has become a liability for the state's GOP and could help Democrats win the governor's office next month for the first time since 1990. The trial is expected to last through the Nov. 7 election.

Ohio's workers' comp agency gave Noe 25 million to invest in rare coins in 1998, followed by another 25 million in 2001. Democrats charge that he got the money because of his political connections.

In the month leading up to the state's first payment, Noe's business was hardly flourishing. There were overdrafts on numerous checks, the business had only about 150,000 in coins on hand, and it owed the bank 396,000, Peters said.

But by the next month, the debt was wiped away and 1 million was put into the business's account.

Noe continued to take money out of the state's coin fund in the following months and put it into his coin company, Peters said.

Peters never saw any paperwork indicating the money was being loaned from the coin fund to Noe's business, he said. Noe told him the money was for coin purchases, he said.

Separate charges

Investigations into the coin investments have led to separate ethics charges against Gov. Bob Taft, who pleaded no contest last year to failing to report golf outings and other gifts.

Noe, in a separate case, pleaded guilty earlier this year to funneling 45,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign and was sentenced last month to two years and three months in federal prison. He won't begin that sentence until after the state charges are resolved.




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