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Ohio inspector general releases Coingate report


Tom Noe with just a few books in his Vintage Coins and Collectibles office library in March, 2005.

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COLUMBUS — The long-awaited final report of Ohio’s investigation into the Coingate scandal was issued today by the Ohio inspector general after The Blade sued to force its hand.

But the report does not include transcripts from interviews with witnesses that had been routinely released at the close of investigations by prior state inspector generals.

The investigation into Tom Noe, the former Toledo area coin dealer now serving state prison time for stealing from the $50 million investment the Bureau of Workers Compensation made in rare coins, went well beyond Noe, the lengthy report states.

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“The investigation also uncovered acts of wrongdoing not specifically related to Tom or his coin investment scheme,” the report reads.“It was uncovered that members of the investment selection and management team at OBWC were involved in a bribery scheme in order to personally profit from their authority to approve large investment payments.

“And finally the investigation into Tom Noe uncovered one of the largest financial frauds in Ohio history in the form of a loss of over $216 million due to the fraud perpetrated by investment strategist Mark Lay,” it reads.

The investigation of multiple federal and state agencies involved 17,000 pieces of evidence.

The report details how Noe disguised $3.9 million in personal and business purchases as inventory purchases for the fund, including $227,289 for himself, $176,088 for builders and home appliance vendors, $504,657 for Noe and financial institutions, $542,675 for related companies, $1 million for “related individuals”, $3,000 for the U.S. Senior Open in 2001, and nearly $1.5 million in other purchases.

Additional funds were misdirected to fund a personal line of credit for Noe and to pay debts, the report reveals.

“Tom Noe was able to obtain investment funds from OBWC, which were intended to be invested in rare and valuable coins,” the report reads. “Out of the initial $25 million investment, Noe misappropriated $4,734,546 of taxpayer money for his own personal gain.”

An initial review of the information released by Inspector General Randall Meyer appeared to contain information that was already largely public record.

“The thing that most surprised me is that there’s really nothing new here,” said Catherine Turcer, of the government watchdog group Common Cause. “Meyers said in February of 2012 that this report would come, but I can’t see why it took so long.

“One of the things we need to better understand from the role the inspector general took is not just what happened — we can get that from media reports — but what happened in the inner workings of government. Transcripts of interviews are background documents that we all need. It’s kind of like getting a book report but not having citations.”

She pointed to a portion of a report noting that some of the convictions associated with the scandal have already been expunged.

“This report has gone on for so long that some things were not included because convictions have been expunged,” Ms. Turcer said.

The campaign of Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic Cuyahoga County executive who hopes to challenge Republican Gov. John Kasich this fall, also immediately criticized the report as turning a “blind eye to potentially damaging political investigations” by not looking at evidence beyond the arrests and prior press reports.

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