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Published: Wednesday, 11/1/2006

Jurors see video of Noe bragging about luxuries

BY MIKE WILKINSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Defense attorney Bill Wilkinson
shows a witness evidence in
Lucas County Common Pleas
Court, where Tom Noe is on trial
on embezzlement charges.
Defense attorney Bill Wilkinson shows a witness evidence in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, where Tom Noe is on trial on embezzlement charges.
Enlarge

Jurors finally heard from Tom Noe yesterday bragging about his luxury home and visits from Gov. Bob Taft and other high ranking politicians.

The indicted coin dealer and convicted GOP fund-raiser wasn t on the stand, but in a video testimonial for Nicholas Custom Homes that was shown in court.

He said he had thrown parties for the governor of Ohio and a U.S. Senator of Ohio at the home, for which he had chosen the most expensive options.

And they ve all been very impressed by it, he said.

For the first time in three weeks, jurors hearing Noe s embezzlement case got beyond checkbooks, invoices, and bank statements and the testimony of coin dealers, investigators, and contractors.

They saw Noe in the role as star of an Internet video created for home-builder Nick Giovannucci, who built two of Noe s homes and remodeled a third. He was paid more than $420,000 with checks written against Noe s coin business, Vintage Coins and Collectibles, into which Noe had transferred millions in state funds.

As Noe extolled the virtues of hiring Mr. Giovannucci in the video, the interiors of several Giovannucci-built homes were shown. Jurors saw an indoor batting cage, spacious whirlpools, a spiral staircase, and elaborate home furnishings.

Defense attorney Bill Wilkinson reviews for the jury a printout of business transactions during Tom Noe s embezzlement trial yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
Defense attorney Bill Wilkinson reviews for the jury a printout of business transactions during Tom Noe s embezzlement trial yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
Enlarge

The video allowed prosecutors to show some of the luxuries they say Noe could afford by stealing money from the $50 million rare coin funds he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

The 6,700-square-foot Monclova Township home, built in 1999, is one of the homes in which Noe raised tens of thousands of dollars for Ohio politicians. Records show that Noe held a fund-raiser there for Gov. Bob Taft on April 6, 2000, raising more than $20,000.

In the Vintage records, Noe wrote that he bought coins from Mr. Giovannucci. Mr. Giovannucci, who now works for another builder, testified that he never sold coins to Noe.

It is unknown if the video will be Noe s only words for the jury. His attorneys have said he might not testify and that he is not required to.

Noe has pleaded not guilty to charges that he embezzled more than $2 million from the coin funds. Prosecutors say he faked inventories to cover the thefts and used the money to pay off debt and support his lifestyle.

Prosecutors also put a number of puzzle pieces together yesterday, creating a picture of how they believe Noe illegally transferred money.

Mark Bentley, a fraud investigator with the bureau, was led methodically through a complex series of transactions between the two state rare-coin funds Noe set up and managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation Capital Coin Fund I and Capital Coin Fund II and his own businesses, Vintage Coins and Collectibles.

With the help of a color-coded series of coin-fund documents, he helped explain why prosecutors had introduced the testimony of several others over the last two weeks.

He told jurors how Noe transferred $2 million on Aug. 1, 2001 from the Capital Coin Fund II to Vintage, which on Aug. 22 transferred $786,000 to the state s Capital Coin Fund I. On the same day, Capital Coin Fund I sent a profit distribution to the bureau for $776,000.

To add to the confusion, jurors were shown how as part of the deal 13 coins worth $786,000 were transferred from Vintage to Capital Coin Fund I in an alleged coin sale to justify the transfer of money from the state coin fund to Noe s business.

Mr. Bentley testified, however, that the 13 coins never belonged to Vintage or the coin fund because they were owned by a Florida coin dealer who had testified earlier that sales records were bogus.

Prosecutors laid out the complicated financing scheme to show that state money was used to pay profits back to the state, and secondly, that fraudulent sales records covered up the transfers.

Following the testimony, Noe s demeanor changed markedly. Typically upbeat and engaged as witnesses testify, sharing notes and observations with his attorneys, he appeared concerned.

Bill Wilkinson, Noe s attorney, got Mr. Bentley to acknowledge, however, that surveillance rec ords of Noe s Monclova Township coin shop showed he did not enter or exit the building in the few days before state investigators executed a search warrant.

That would mean that Noe was not on the premises on May 24, 2005, when invoices were created that transferred more than $11.2 million in coins from the bureau s Capital Coin funds to Noe s business and to Noe himself.

Scott Clark, a former fraud investigator for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, had testified on Monday that the computer records were altered to reflect a sweeping change in inventory from the coin funds to Vintage and Noe himself in the days before the state moved in and took over the coin funds from Noe.

Mr. Bentley and Mr. Clark also indicated that they knew that Tim LaPointe, Noe s vice president at Vintage, was more familiar with the computerized records system.

Mr. Clark also said that investigators cannot prove that Noe ever used the computer system used to create phony sales records.

He said records do not show who was actually at the keyboard entering data into the company s inventory system.

As you sit here today you cannot say that Tom Noe entered a single coin, defense attorney John Mitchell asked him.

I cannot, Mr. Clark replied.

Mr. LaPointe has been charged with seven felonies relating to Noe s alleged embezzlement. He is cooperating with prosecutors and is expected to testify on Thursday in what will likely be pivotal testimony in the case.

Mr. Mitchell, in a trial strategy employed for more than two weeks, showed Mr. Clark records indicating that Mr. LaPointe, Noe s former vice president, was the last one to modify some of the coin records. He also had Mr. Clark admit that they did not check to see who was the last to modify all of the records.

Mr. Mitchell indicated that it was Mr. LaPointe who transferred the coins on May 24, 2005; no testimony was introduced to prove that allegation.

Defense attorneys are trying to show that Mr. LaPointe controlled the computer system that tracked purchases. They have challenged his upcoming testimony because of his cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

Prosecutors have shown dozens of sales records to witnesses who have said many of those sales records are bogus. The prosecution has alleged that inventories were faked to hide theft from the $50 million in coin funds created by the bureau.

Both Noe and Mr. LaPointe are charged with tampering with records, among other charges.

In a ruling yesterday, Judge Thomas Osowik of Lucas County Common Pleas Court agreed with prosecutors and said defense attorneys cannot admit testimony or evidence regarding the value of the coin funds assets after they were seized by the state.

He said the value of the assets after they left Noe s control could not make any fact of consequence more or less probable.

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



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