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Published: Saturday, 4/30/2005

Noe's lawyers refuse state request for rare coin records


Lawyers for Tom Noe and his state-funded rare coin ventures are refusing to comply with demands from the state to produce documents pertaining to public investments in a rare coin deal.

The records in question are related to a Pennsylvania coin dealer who was loaned up to $300,000 from Mr. Noe s Capital Coin funds, with a mortgage on a property in Burlington County, New Jersey, used as collateral.

Capital Coin Funds Ltd. I and II have been given $50 million since 1998 by the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation to invest in rare coins.

The two funds were set up and are managed by Mr. Noe, a local coin dealer and a prominent Republican fund-raiser who is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI for possible federal campaign contribution violations.

Law enforcement sources said this week that the investigation is focusing on whether Mr. Noe funneled cash to the Bush re-election campaign through several local Republican politicians, their family members, and his employees.

The Ohio Inspector General has also launched a separate investigation into Mr. Noe s rare coin funds and the state s investment in them.

The Ohio Attorney General s office yesterday ordered Capital Coin to release copies of documents related to the New Jersey mortgage, but lawyers for Mr. Noe and the fund argue the documents should not be considered a public record. Mr. Noe, his lawyers, and the bureau have rejected numerous requests from The Blade seeking access to information about investments, claiming the documents would reveal trade secrets.

The loan to the Pennsylvania coin dealer was to purchase a large coin collection, which the dealer wanted to keep in his possession so he could attempt to resell the coins at a profit, according to a letter from Mr. Noe s Maumee attorney, James Tuschman. The mortgage provided additional safeguards for securing the coins involved in the transaction, he added.

The attorney general s office is requesting the mortgage documents for the Bureau of Workers Compensation, so the bureau can fulfill a public records request by The Blade.

In a letter yesterday to Mr. Noe s lawyers, Assistant Attorney General Martin Susec rejected the trade secret argument by noting that anyone pledging property as collateral to back publicly funded investments must make their name and address public.

We find this argument to be without merit, Mr. Susec wrote. Therefore, for the last time, the Bureau is demanding unredacted copies of these records be made immediately available.

Mr. Noe and his attorneys have provided copies of the mortgage to the bureau, but only after redacting or blacking out portions of the mortgage that document the owners of property being mortgaged and the address of the property.

Lawyers for Capital Coin argued in a letter submitted yesterday to the Ohio Attorney General s office that the mortgage documents are not public records because they have never been in the possession of the bureau and full disclosure of the documents would jeopardize the assets of the state.

BWC only has a right to inspect books of accounts and all company tax returns, wrote Jeffrey Stankunas of the Columbus firm, Isaac, Brant, Ledman & Teetor LLP. Significantly, this does not include any records identified as relating to real property in Burlington County, New Jersey.

Capital Coin also agreed to allow an authorized representative of the bureau to inspect the mortgage records in person during business hours, according to lawyers for the venture.

Mr. Noe did not return a message yesterday seeking comment. Jeremy Jackson, a spokesman for the Bureau of Workers Compensation, also did not return a call yesterday seeking comment.

Marc Dann, a Democrat state senator from suburban Youngstown, who has submitted several of his own public records requests with the bureau pertaining to Mr. Noe s rare coin investments, called the struggle to obtain information about the state s $50 million rare coin investment tragic.

When you take on public investments like disabled people s money, that s a public trust and you should be subject to public records laws, Mr. Dann said. If you are investing public money, then you ought to be accountable and be able to show us where it is.

Contact Steve Eder at: seder@theblade.comor 419-724-6728.

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