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Published: Saturday, 7/29/2006

Coin investigator cites fake papers

BLADE STAFF
Judge Thomas Osowik makes point in court. Another witness yesterday was the former chief investment officer of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, Jim McLean. Judge Thomas Osowik makes point in court. Another witness yesterday was the former chief investment officer of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, Jim McLean.
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Indicted coin dealer Tom Noe's business partner gave investigators bogus documents when they arrived at the Monclova Township company for "spot checks" of rare coins, an investigator said yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Doug Fisher, an investigator for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation who visited the coin shop on two occasions for the spot checks, was among five witnesses who testified yesterday.

Mr. Fisher said Noe, then a Toledo-area coin dealer and GOP fund-raiser, was able to show the coins that were selected from an inventory list or provide invoices that accounted for existence of coins on the April 29 and May 16, 2005, visits. He said that allowed him to conclude the BWC investments were protected.

But during questioning by a prosecutor, Mr. Fisher said that Tim Lapointe, a partner in the coin business, apologized to him for producing bogus invoices during the spot check in May.

Mr. Fisher said Noe knew at least a day or two in advance that he would be making a spot check of the coin inventory at Noe's store. "It wasn't a surprise visit," he said.

Like other witnesses, Mr. Fisher was asked by Noe's attorney, John Mitchell, about information his client provided regarding alleged misappropriated coins at the Denver-area subsidiary of the coin-fund operation.

Doug Fisher Doug Fisher
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Noe's defense attorneys have asked Judge Thomas Osowik to suppress evidence gathered May 26, 2005, during a search of Noe's former Vintage Coins & Collectibles.

In the questioning of state investigators during the hearing, Noe's attorneys have attempted to discredit the probable cause for alleged suspicious activity that prosecutors used to obtain the search warrant.

The hearing - the longest proceeding to date in the case against the once well-connected Republican fund-raiser - began Thursday and will resume Monday afternoon.

Noe, 52, faces trial in October on a 53-count felony indictment for his handling of $50 million rare-coin funds for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

He is accused of laundering state coin funds to his personal accounts and stealing millions from the funds.

Judge Osowik also heard the testimony of Jeffrey Rupert, an attorney with the firm that the state attorney general's office hired to take control of the rare-coin funds in May, 2005.

A prosecution witness, Mr. Rupert said that Noe attorney Bill Wilkinson told him that he believed at least $10 million was missing and the coin fund investment shortfall could be as much as $12 million to $13 million.

The statement of the attorney was among the testimony that then-Common Pleas Court Judge Jack Zouhary considered in granting the search warrant.

Jim McLean, the bureau's former chief investment officer, testified yesterday that he learned about the bureau's coin investment a few months after he started working at the bureau in 2003. He said he thought the investment seemed "a little unusual," but he added that he also thought it was creative and innovative.

He said in 2004 Noe told him that he suspected one of his coin managers had misappropriated coins owned by the bureau. Noe later told Mr. McLean that he had taken care of the problem and that the bureau would not lose any money.

Noe's attorneys yesterday filed with the court a 200-page deposition of Keith Elliott, an internal auditor for the BWC. He had reviewed the coin fund investment for the state. The document was filed in lieu of Mr. Elliott testifying at the hearing.



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