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Published: Monday, 7/24/2006

Noe lawyers seeking state worker's help to cut total charges

BY MIKE WILKINSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In their multipronged attack against the criminal charges that Tom Noe faces, the former coin dealers' attorneys are turning to unexpected places for help.

This week, the attorneys will look to an internal auditor for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation - who was perhaps the first to raise serious questions about Noe and his coin funds - to aid their attempts to slash the number of counts against Noe.

Keith Elliott and five other current or former bureau employees have been summoned to appear at a Thursday hearing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on motions to suppress evidence and to drop 16 counts.

John Mitchell, the lead criminal attorney for Noe, declined to comment on the upcoming hearing or say what role Mr. Elliott is expected to play.

However, motions filed earlier by Mr. Mitchell have used Mr. Elliott's audit of Noe's coin funds, which were stocked with $50 million in bureau money, to bolster their claims.

In the motion to drop the 16 counts, Mr. Mitchell argued that the audit - first outlined in a 1999 "risk assessment" by Mr. Elliott - should have triggered the beginning of the statute of limitations and that they expired before a Lucas County grand jury indicted Noe in February.

The attorneys point to the audit in their motion to suppress a May, 2005, search warrant as well.

Julia Bates, the Lucas County prosecutor, said the two motions were "inconsistent" because they argue that the state could have known about any alleged crime in 1999 - and then argue that there wasn't probable cause for a search.

"They're arguing out of both sides of their mouths," she said.

Prosecutors have summoned Priscilla Livingstone, a former employee of Noe's Monclova Township coin shop, to appear at the hearing. John Weglian, an assistant county prosecutor, declined to say what she may be asked.

Noe's attorneys have also summoned bureau investigators Jennifer Saunders and Doug Fisher, interim chief financial officer Tracy Valentino, assistant legal director Gregory Johnson, and former chief investment officer James McLean.

Noe faces 53 counts of theft, forgery, tampering with records, and the most serious charge, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

He has been accused of stealing from the coin funds, and up to $13 million is missing.

Prosecutors have signaled their attempt to drop a grand theft charge against Noe, saying they have found a $610,000 coin they thought had been stolen.

In addition to the motions to suppress and drop charges, Mr. Mitchell has filed a motion asking Judge Thomas Osowik to consolidate nine of the theft counts into a single count, saying each alleged theft is the product of one crime.

Mr. Mitchell argued that state law requires such consolidation if each offense is done by an individual in the same capacity. Since all of Noe's alleged thefts occurred while he was in custody of the bureau's money, such a consolidation is warranted, Mr. Mitchell wrote.

"Thus, each and every alleged incident of theft alleged above occurred in Mr. Noe's same, ongoing relationship with the BWC," Mr. Mitchell wrote.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the motion. In May, Noe pleaded guilty to three federal campaign finance charges.

He admitted to funneling more than $45,000 into the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2003 using two dozen conduits. He is awaiting sentencing in that case.

Contact Mike Wilkinson at: mwilkinson@theblade.com or 419-724-6104.



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