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Published: Tuesday, 11/7/2006

Prosecutor tabs Noe 'swindler and thief' in closing

Defense says evidence is lacking

BY MIKE WILKINSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Tom Noe is a "swindler and a thief" who turned his business into a criminal enterprise and a co-worker "into a crook," an assistant Lucas County Prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments today.

John Weglian said Noe stole money from the first day he got millions from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation to invest in rare coins and then bought only a few coins over the next seven years.

In between, Mr. Weglian said Noe lavished himself with bureau money for homes, kitchen furnishings, and other items he wasn't entitled to.

"The moment he got control he began stealing it," Mr. Weglian said.

Noe's defense attorneys, during their closing arguments, said the evidence does not support the charges, saying investigators did not look at some evidence and disregarded others. They claim that the only "important" number to consider is the $7.9 million Noe sent the bureau as profit.

"This case is a perfect example of pounding a square peg into a round hole," said defense counsel John Mitchell.

The case now belongs to the jury.

Tomorrow morning, Judge Thomas Osowik will give them instructions on how to consider evidence and the elements of each crime. They should begin deliberating before noon.

In the last words they heard from either side before testimony concluded, assistant Lucas County prosecutor Larry Kiroff referred to a former Vintage employee's comment that Noe told her the coin funds were "an ATM" he could use whenever he needed money.

Defense attorney Bill Wilkinson says in defense closings that the  the evidence does not support the charges against Noe. Defense attorney Bill Wilkinson says in defense closings that the the evidence does not support the charges against Noe.
JEREMY WADSWORTH / AP Enlarge

Holding up the indictment charging Noe with dozens of felonies, Mr. Kiroff said: "This indictment is Tom Noe's bill for that ATM. And it's time for him to pay up."

Mr. Weglian said Noe stole more than $13 million from the $50 million in bureau coin funds, and dismissed defense arguments that the money transfers were loans or advances. No documents exist to prove either suggestion, Mr. Weglian said.

Other partners and subsidiary of the funds did make money for the bureau, Mr. Weglian said. The Pennsylvania branch of Noe's Rare Coin Enterprises bought and sold $37 million in coins. Records show Noe only had sales of less than $700,000, Mr. Weglian said.

"Other people in this thing made money. But he didn't because he was stealing," Mr. Weglian said.

Mr. Weglian defended the testimony of Tim LaPointe, Noe's co-defendant and a former vice president at Vintage Coins and Collectibles. Mr. LaPointe, who cooperated with the prosecution, told jurors how he and Noe schemed to create phony inventories to hide the missing money.

Bill Wilkinson, Mr. Mitchell's co-counsel, admitted Noe kept poor books and said investigators cannot rely on the financial records that were kept to convict him.

Jurors have repeatedly heard that there were few invoices and phony records. Mr. Wilkinson sought to capitalize on those accusations as he addressed a charge that Noe took more than $1 million between Sept. 16, 2003, and May 26, 2005.

"Do you have any idea how much money Tom Noe allegedly took from the coin funds?" Mr. Wilkinson asked.

As expected, both attorneys questioned Mr. LaPointe's testimony.

"Nobody in the case had a bigger reason to tell a lie," Mr. Mitchell said. "And nobody had a bigger reason to please the prosecutors."

He pointed out that investigators did not search Mr. LaPointe's house or investigate him. They claimed his "I don't recall" answers were suspect.

Mr. Mitchell said the core business records of Vintage were created by Mr. LaPointe, "the fella who doesn't remember."

He also said that a forensic accounting firm admitted that it didn't look at all of the evidence. Mr. Mitchell listed 10 boxes that had some sales records in them that Crowe Chizek and Co. did not review.

In its report, Crowe Chizek said they could not find sales records to back up a number of transactions.

Mr. Wilkinson said jurors must look at bank statements to see that Vintage did have other money to pay its bills. He challenged the "quality" of the state's evidence, which takes up a number of boxes crowded into a section of the courtroom.

"Fortunately, the weight of evidence isn't measured in pounds. It's measured in quality," Mr. Wilkinson said.

He asked the jury to acquit Noe on all charges "and send him off to Columbus" where a civil trial awaits. He said that trial is the better judge of Noe and whether he violated the contract with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

While Noe's attorneys questioned Mr. LaPointe's motive to testify, calling him unreliable, Mr. Weglian said in the prosecution closings that Mr. LaPointe, who named Noe the godfather of his youngest son, agreed to "fess up" to his crimes.

"He loves Tom Noe, you could tell that. But he was used by Tom Noe. He was turned into a crook by Tom Noe," Mr. Weglian said.

Noe looked serious throughout Mr. Weglian's presentation, occasionally smiling as he conversed with his attorney, Mr. Wilkinson. Jurors were attentive throughout the 80 minutes that Mr. Weglian addressed them.

The courtroom was packed today the fullest it has been since the first day of three weeks of testimony. Members of Noe's family, included his sister, Beth June, and brother-in-law, Joe Restivo.

Bernadette Noe was not in the courtroom, although her attorney Charles Ticknor was.

Prosecutor Julia Bates and investigator Frank Stiles were in the courtroom as well.

Noe's attorneys this morning filed supplemental information calling for a change in venue, a request rejected months ago by Judge Thomas Osowik. In their filing, the attorneys submitted videos of political commercials involving Noe, which have run with regularity in the Toledo media market.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

• Day 17 testimony: Defense calls no witnesses, then rests

• Day 16 testimony: Noe unlikely to testify as defense steps up

• Day 15 testimony: Noe wrote 71 checks to self, witness says

• Day 14 testimony: Noe V.P. says he faked data with consent

• Day 13 testimony: Signatures forged on checks, 6 testify

• Day 12 testimony: Jurors see video of Noe bragging about luxuries

• Day 11 testimony: Witness says Noe moved $11.2M just before search

• Day 10 testimony: Judge likely to rule today on funds assets

• Day 9 testimony: Coin sales didn't occur, court told

• Day 8 testimony: Noncoin deposits were not factored in audit, court told

• Day 7 testimony: CPA can't confirm millions in coin sales

• Day 6 testimony: Noe jurors may hear from coin dealers

• Day 5 testimony: Ex-financial chief: No data verified purchase of coins

• Day 4 testimony: Auditor: BWC allowed Noe to spend as desired

• Day 3 testimony: Coin-fund money trail mapped

• Day 2 testimony: Noe ex-aide tells all on his finances

• Day 1 testimony: Prosecutor, defense fire away at Noe trial

• Statewide news media take up posts for trial's 1st day of action

• View the Juror Questionnaire: State of Ohio v. Thomas Noe

The Tip That Toppled Tom Noe

• Part 1: Kidd's 'wrong choice' led to Noe's downfall

• Part 2: Allegation against Kidd came back to bite Noes

• Examine more Coins, Contributions and BWC coverage.



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