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Published: Friday, 3/9/2007

Noe sent from Michigan to Oklahoma jail

BY JAMES DREW AND STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

U.S. authorities have shipped Tom Noe from the federal prison in Milan, Mich., to Oklahoma, but his ultimate destination is the federal lockup in Edgefield, S.C., the hometown of former Republican U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Noe was transported by airplane commonly referred to as Con Air from the Milan prison on Wednesday to an Oklahoma county jail because there was not enough space in the federal transfer center in Oklahoma City, said Steve Miller, supervisor of the Toledo office of the U.S. Marshal Service.

Sgt. Randy Ely of the Grady County Law Enforcement Center confirmed that Noe was an inmate last night at his Oklahoma jail, but he didn t know how long the former Toledo-area coin dealer and GOP fund-raiser would be housed there as he awaits transfer.

Sergeant Ely said all of the jail s inmates are paired with cell mates.

The marshal s service has a contract with counties to temporarily house federal inmates, Mr. Miller said.

As of March 1, there were 1,647 inmates in the Oklahoma City federal transfer center.

Inmates are transported to Oklahoma City before they are sent to the prison where they will serve the bulk of their sentences.

Con Air generally flies once a week, so it is possible that Mr. Noe could leave Oklahoma City and end up in his South Carolina institution next week, Mr. Miller said.

Noe, sentenced last year to serve 27 months for illegally funneling $45,000 into President Bush s re-election campaign, was expected to spend eight weeks at the federal prison in Milan, an all-male, low-security detention center 30 miles north of Toledo.

But he ended up spending 3 months there.

The reasons may have been snowy weather and budgetary issues that limited flight transportation of inmates, Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Noe has gone through your average federal inmate s process just like all the rest of them, he said.

Melissa Robinson, a spokesman for the Milan prison, wouldn t answer any questions about Noe s stay, except to note that he declined interview requests and asked that no interviews be granted on his behalf by prison officials.

Although U.S. District Judge David Katz recommended that Noe be placed in a prison as close to his residence in Florida as possible, the final decision rested with the federal Bureau of Prisons.

The bureau of prisons has a policy to house inmates no more than 500 miles from the city where they plan to live after their release.

But the chief factor in the decision to assign an inmate is available space, said Mike Truman, a spokesman for the bureau.

Edgefield is 700 miles roughly a 13-hour drive from the $5 million oceanfront residence of Bernadette Noe and her children in the Florida Keys.

A spokesman for the Edgefield prison didn t return phone calls.

Edgefield is the hometown of the late Strom Thurmond, the longest-serving and oldest senator in U.S. history who died at the age of 100 in 2003 and is buried at the Edgefield Cemetery.

The prison has housed several high-profile inmates, including:

• Mark Whitacre, the former executive of Archer Daniels Midland Co. who was convicted of embezzlement by using dummy corporations and offshore bank accounts.

He was a major figure in Kurt Eichenwald s book, The Informant, which chronicled the antitrust case against the Illinois-based agribusiness giant.

• Rene Gonzalez, among five Cubans convicted in 2001 of conspiring to spy on the United States for the government of Fidel Castro.

Last January, U.S. Department of Justice and Iraqi prison officials visited state prisons in South Carolina and also scheduled a trip to the federal lockup in Edgefield, according to The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

Federal officials said they were looking for a state prison system similar in size to the Iraqi system, the newspaper reported.

The Bureau of Prisons lists Noe s projected release date as Oct. 28, 2008.

Noe, 52, has appealed his state conviction on charges that he stole millions of dollars from the rare-coin funds he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

Ohio prison officials have said that after Noe has completed serving his federal sentence, he will be shipped to an Ohio prison to serve his 18-year state sentence.

Contact James Drew at: jdrew@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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