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Coingate's central figure seeks clemency

  • Ohio-Investment-Scandal-5

    This Feb. 22, 2010, file photo, shows Tom Noe, a former Republican fundraiser, posing for a photo at the Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, Ohio. He is now at Marion Correctional Institution.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • NOE-TALKS-SLL-3-1

    Tom Noe, the former Toledo-area coin dealer, is incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution.

    COLUMBUS DISPATCH

COLUMBUS — Former Toledo-area coin dealer Tom Noe has again asked Gov. John Kasich to commute his 18-year prison sentence for stealing $13.7 million from an investment made by the state’s insurance fund for injured workers.

The petition was filed by Columbus attorneys Barry W. Wilford and Sarah M. Schregardus with the Ohio Parole Board, which will consider arguments that the former Lucas County Republican Party chairman presents and will make a recommendation to the governor.

The board may or may not hold a clemency hearing at which Noe could be heard. The board recommended no clemency in 2015 without holding a hearing. Mr. Kasich agreed with its recommendation.

“Compared to the former successful Toledo businessman, prominent in politics, charitable activities, and social life, Tom Noe is a repentant man,” reads the petition obtained by The Blade. “After being tarred by public notoriety and political pariahdom, 12 years of prison life has been a humbling experience.

“Any effort to discuss with him his epic fall from grace will quickly impress the person with the clarity with which Tom Noe can now see his mistakes and misdeeds, and the character issues which served to contribute to this classic story of undoing and downfall,” it reads.

RELATED: Tom Noe’s application for Executive Clemency ■ Appendix material in Noe application

He has served more than half of his 18-year state sentence, which began after he completed a two-year federal sentence for laundering illegal campaign contributions to the re-election campaign of then-President George W. Bush in 2004. He’s currently incarcerated at Marion Correctional Institution.

Noe himself points to several character flaws that he said played a role: “too much ambition; too many shortcuts; too little objectivity from which to view the questionable nature of rationalizations; and too much willingness to overlook the gratuitous nature of self-righteous justifications.”

In a statement of responsibility, Noe says, “In November of 2006, I was convicted of theft and numerous other offenses in connection with my management of a rare coin investment fund financed by the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation. I am beginning the 10th year of my sentence. I was guilty of these crimes and I, alone, take total responsibility for my actions. It took me a long time to understand the reasons for my actions so that I could sincerely say, I’m sorry.”

“... In closing, I want to express my remorse in the strongest terms. While I am confident that I will never break the law again, it doesn’t change the fact that I hurt a lot of people and betrayed the public trust,” he wrote. “Because of my actions, numerous people lost their jobs while others had to change their careers and even move to another state because they were publicly ruined by their association with me. I continue to ask for forgiveness from all of those that I betrayed, took advantage of, and caused irreparable harm. And for those many ills, I shall always seek in my future to find positive ways to atone.”

But while his petition stresses his remorse and argues that his actions while behind bars warrant clemency, a footnote again argues that Noe did not “swindle” the state and claims the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation ultimately realized a profit of more than $6 million on its investment.

It argues that the profit would have been greater if the state had gradually sold off the inventory rather than under “fire-sale” conditions.

The petition quotes a letter from former Attorney General Jim Petro, who was in office at the time of the Coingate investigation that ultimately landed Noe behind bars. The Republican argues that Noe was properly convicted, but his sentence was “excessive and unjust.” He wrote that Noe has paid “an extraordinarily excessive price for his criminal actions.”

The petition also cites the book Coingate: When Law and Fairness Collide, recently published by Garrison Walters, former interim chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. The book argues Noe is a “political prisoner.”

It claims errors by the Lucas County prosecutor and judge, overzealous reporting by The Blade, a missing-in-action Ohio Supreme Court, and a tense political climate converged to put Noe where he is for as long as he’s been there.

Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, a Democrat whose office prosecuted Noe in 2006, wrote to Mr. Kasich in 2015 urging him not to grant clemency. Her position hasn’t changed.

“Is he remorseful because the last time he wasn’t and he didn’t get clemency?” she asked. “Is he admitting I did this, and I’m so sorry that I did, and that I cost taxpayers so much money to prosecute me rather than just pay the money back and go quietly?

“It’s difficult for me to make a judgment on somebody who’s been away in prison such a long time,” Ms. Bates said. “The person who is in prison is not the same person who was buying wine, condos, and flying to the Cayman Islands. Is it enough to say I’m sorry? Someone else has to answer that question.”

Noe was convicted in 2006 of 29 charges, 25 of which were felonies, including a racketeering charge carrying a mandatory 10-year sentence. That 10-year mark will pass in October.

He was convicted of four misdemeanors related to the $13.7 million theft from a $50 million investment that the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation made in rare-coin funds he managed. The state’s theory was that Noe skimmed millions off the investments for his personal use and then falsified inventory records to cover his tracks.

He was ordered to make $13.7 million in restitution as part of his sentence.

The investment had existed for seven years before the spotlight brought on the deal by The Blade beginning in 2005. As the subsequent investigation picked up steam, the investment funds were closed and an audit revealed a shortfall of $10 million of actual coins compared to the falsified records.

If released, his plan is to live with his ex-wife, Bernadette Restivo, in Key West, Fla. Alternatives include living with friends Michael Boyle in Maumee or Thomas Sebo in Salem.

In a letter accompanying the petition, Ms. Restivo said she and her ex-husband have reconciled their differences.

“Other than the State of Ohio, I consider myself to be the biggest personal victim of Tom’s crimes,” she wrote. “I lost everything because of what Tom had done — my marriage, my career, my home, my reputation, and my community.

“Fortunately, I was able to rebuild my life and move forward,” Ms. Restivo wrote. “What is most important and germane is that I have forgiven Tom for all of the personal pain and loss he caused me. I know for certain that he is no longer the man who violated the laws.”

Noe’s former boss and current co-owner of Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, James L. Halperin, wrote that he’s prepared to offer him a job.

Contact Jim Provance at jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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