By MIKE WILKINSON and STEVE EDER BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Tom Noe, the once high-flying Republican financier who went from college dropout to millionaire coin dealer, was found guilty today of stealing money from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation and using the cash to erase debts and buy and furnish million-dollar homes.
Noe was found guilty of 29 of 40 charges, including theft, corrupt activity, money laundering, forging records and tampering with documents. He was convicted on the chief charge that he engaged in a pattern of corruption in his management of Ohio's $50 million rare-coin fund investment with the bureau.
THE CONVICTIONS Coin dealer Tom Noe has been convicted of corrupt activity, theft, money laundering, tampering with records and forgery. Here is a breakdown of the convictions and possible penalty ranges:
ENGAGING IN A PATTERN OF CORRUPT ACTIVITY: One count, mandatory 10-year sentence.
AGGRAVATED THEFT: Two counts, six months to 1.5 years on first count, three years to 10 years on second count.
MONEY LAUNDERING: Four counts, 1-5 years on each count.
TAMPERING WITH RECORDS: Four counts, 1-5 years on each count.
FORGERY: 18 counts, six months to one year on each count.
The corrupt activity charge was the most serious, carrying a minimum mandatory 10-year prison sentence.
The maximum sentence, if imposed on all counts, would total 72 years in prison. Prosecutors said it was unlikely the judge would order such a lengthy sentence.
The jury also found Noe not guilty of 11 of the counts, among them additional money laundering and tampering with records charges.
The verdict came less than a week after a corruption-weary electorate swept the GOP out of power in Ohio. The jury of eight women and four men passed a similar judgment on Noe, who spawned a scandal that tarred the Republican Party and contributed to the stinging defeat Tuesday.
Noe, 52, stood stoic and stared straight ahead when the verdicts were read by Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik. Noe was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody by U.S. Marshals so he could begin serving an earlier federal sentence for illegal campaign activity.
Noe’s wife, Bernadette, and their three children hugged and consoled one another in a front row. The children wept.
Sentencing will be Nov. 20.
After the verdict, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, flanked by a team of prosecutors and investigators, told reporters that Noe's prosecution was a "momentous task."
"It is sort of sad in a way because of the things we learned abut the system that has gone on here," Ms. Bates said. "All of the things that unfolded in this courtroom. I think justice was done and I think the citizens should feel their case was fairly and justly tried."
With today's conviction, Noe's fall from grace is complete. Less than two years ago he was the toast of Columbus, a go-to Republican heavyweight who had snared respected appointments to prominent government boards.
In the end, after three weeks, 53 witnesses, and thousands of documents, jurors mostly agreed with the prosecutors' belief that Noe was a well-heeled crook who used his friends, family, and business associates to steal millions from the unorthodox $50 million investment in coin funds he managed on behalf of the bureau.
The money was showered on his three luxury homes and bought a boat and paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Some of it was used to buy a hospitality tent at a golf tournament. None of it was spent on coins, prosecutors said.
Investigators began looking at the coin investments after The Blade revealed the funds’ existence in April 2005, including concerns about whether the state’s investment was being adequately protected.
State officials, including Gov. Bob Taft, initially defended the investment, saying it earned more than $15 million. But then Noe’s attorney told investigators the fund had a possible shortfall of $10 million to $12 million.
The verdict marks the second time in less than two months that Noe was judged guilty.
U.S. District Judge David Katz sentenced Noe to 27 months in federal prison on Sept. 12 for violating federal campaign finance law. Noe illegally poured more than $45,000 into the re-election campaign of President Bush in 2003.
Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.