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Published: Saturday, 6/25/2005

Bulk of missing coins found after all

BY STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

COLUMBUS Most of the 121 Ohio-owned rare coins believed to be missing from the Colorado office of Tom Noe s $50 million coin venture were accounted for when state fraud inspectors inventoried the collection last month, an attorney for the Maumee coin dealer told The Blade.

The recovered valuables include some of the 119 coins valued at $93,000 that auditors could not locate during an examination of the company s books a year ago. Investigators, however, continue to search for the $10 gold coin from 1845 and $3 gold coin from 1855 worth about $300,000, which were reported stolen in 2003.

Bill Wilkinson, an attorney for Mr. Noe, said the coin dealer learned before he was replaced as manager of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation coin investment that records had been located showing many of the coins appeared missing not because of criminal acts but because of accounting errors.

In the day or two before he was replaced, we began to get information that [many] coins were not really lost at all, Mr. Wilkinson said. Records were found that demonstrated that.

Attorneys for Mr. Noe told Ohio authorities last month that $10 million to $12 million of the coin fund s assets were missing. Mr. Noe, a Republican fund-raiser, is facing multiple state and federal investigations.

On May 1, The Blade reported that Plante & Moran, an accounting firm hired to check the inventory of the rare coins, found that 119 coins were missing from the Colorado subsidiary.

The report said Mr. Noe told auditors that the missing coins could relate to a misappropriation of assets by a former manager of the office, Michael Storeim. It also said that Mr. Noe had hired outside counsel and a forensic accountant to investigate the missing coins.

Mr. Storeim, through his attorney, has said all along that he is not to blame for any missing coins, calling any questions simply a matter of the company s inventory control records. He has refuted all allegations that he was part of a grand scheme of deception while running the Colorado office.

As we have said before, we regard these accusations against Mike Storeim to be an effort by Noe and his associates to deflect attention from their own poor management of NPL or Ohio s funds, Mr. Storeim said in a statement released yesterday by his attorney, Brian Jeffrey. It is difficult to imagine any other explanation for the fact that Noe and his associates claim to have determined the coins to be missing in their year-end audit of NPL [last summer], only to have them found when an independent audit was conducted eleven months later.

Despite their earlier statements that Mr. Storeim was to blame for the disappearance of 119 coins, Mr. Noe s attorney, Mr. Wilkinson, explained that someone was just not looking in the right place for the records during last year s audit which took place after Mr. Storeim had parted ways with the venture.

Still, Mr. Wilkinson said, Mr. Noe maintains his belief that Mr. Storeim engaged in wrongdoing while running the Colorado office. Mr. Noe does believe there was misappropriation committed by Mr. Storeim, and he reported that when he became aware of that in March, 2004, to the investigators at the bureau.

Although earlier accusations against Mr. Storeim now appear to be inaccurate, Mr. Wilkinson said, That doesn t mean Mr. Storeim didn t skim money as Mr. Noe reported to the bureau.

Bureau spokesman Jeremy Jackson has said the bureau s investments were safe because Mr. Noe withheld $900,000 in bonuses that Mr. Storeim would have received and confiscated $400,000 worth of coins from the Colorado coin dealer. The bureau declined to comment.

Last month, Mr. Storeim filed a lawsuit in Colorado, alleging that Mr. Noe ordered employees to take $500,000 of his property from the suburban Denver office.

Colorado authorities, investigating the disappearance of the two coins worth $300,000, seized hundreds of coins at Mr. Storeim s home and office, as well as computers, documents, and a wine collection. Mr. Storeim s home was burglarized last week.

Mike Storeim s reputation has been unfairly damaged by a series of false allegations by Mr. Noe and his associates as reported in the press, Mr. Jeffrey said. We view the confirmation that these coins were never missing an as important first step toward correcting that damage. Clearly, someone owes Mike Storeim an apology.

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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