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Published: Thursday, 12/14/2006

Noes' tax case isn't a county matter

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bates Bates
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Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates said state officials are responsible for investigating whether Tom and Bernadette Noe should be charged for failing to report income on their joint Ohio tax returns.

According to checks presented by prosecutors at Noe's theft and forgery trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, the Noes allegedly failed to report more than $210,000 in income over a four-year period on their joint state tax forms.

The money was generated by Noe's misuse of millions of dollars in state funds that he controlled for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

In an interview yesterday, Ms. Bates said the false income tax returns of Tom and Bernadette Noe were not reported to the Ohio Department of Taxation or the IRS.

However, she said the tax issue was known to members of a task force of federal and state law enforcement agencies that investigated Noe and the bureau's $50 million rare-coin investment he managed. David Buchman, an assistant in the Franklin County prosecutor's office, was a member of the prosecution team that presented the state's case during the three-week trial.

"The jurisdiction of the tax issue lies in Columbus. This is not something that our office would do," Ms. Bates said.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien told The Blade on Tuesday that he was not aware of any evidence developed in the criminal case against Noe showing that Noe and his wife had falsified tax forms and failed to pay state taxes.

Prosecutor Bates said the efforts of the task force's continuing investigation could include looking at underreporting on taxes.

"If somebody has done something wrong, we will hold them accountable. However, we can only do so much. I don't have control over what others do,'' she said.

Records submitted as evidence by prosecutors in the Noe trial state that Noe and his wife owe the state $15,402 in back taxes for underreporting income on Ohio tax returns totaling $210,500 from 1999 through 2002. The returns, also submitted as evidence, show that both Noe and his wife signed the tax returns.

Convicted of 29 charges of theft, money-laundering, tampering with records, and engaging in a pattern of corruption related to his handling of the $50 million rare-coin investment, Noe, 52, was sentenced last month to 18 years in state prison.

Ms. Bates, a Democrat, denied yesterday that prosecutors chose not to investigate Mrs. Noe on the tax issue because she is the daughter of retired Judge Francis ''Buddy'' Restivo, a well-respected Democrat who served on the Lucas County Common Pleas bench for years.

"We have to go after whoever and wherever the evidence takes us. But, we are honor-bound to pursue only those cases that we believe that we have a case for probable cause,'' she said.

Mark Anthony, a spokesman for Attorney General Jim Petro, said if the state Department of Taxation is unable to obtain unpaid income taxes, then the attorney general will attempt to obtain the money through civil litigation.

When asked when it would become a criminal matter, Mr. Anthony said: ''I don't know. It is not an action the attorney general takes unilaterally. Tax evasion is a criminal matter, and not in our purview.''

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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