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Published: Thursday, 10/23/2008

Bernadette Noe says Tom didn't do anything wrong

BY STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Bernadette Noe doesn't believe that her husband, Tom Noe, did anything wrong in his management of Ohio's former $50 million rare-coin fund, which he was convicted in 2006 of stealing millions from.

In an Internet radio interview, Mrs. Noe said she is confident her husband will win on appeal and called the judge's sentencing in his case "devastating."

"I believe, at the end, justice prevails and we will get a fair and just decision," said Mrs. Noe, an attorney who now lives in the Florida Keys and is a former chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party.

"I'm not going to concede he did anything that he shouldn't have done," said Mrs. Noe in an interview with Denny Schaffer, a former Toledo-area radio personality. It was Mrs. Noe's first radio interview since her husband began serving a two-year federal prison sentence for funneling more than $45,400 in illegal campaign contributions to President Bush's re-election campaign.

On Monday, Tom Noe is slated to be released from federal prison in Florida and begin his journey back to his native Ohio to begin serving an 18-year sentence stemming from his 2006 conviction on charges he stole millions of dollars from the $50 million rare-coin fund he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

A Lucas County jury convicted Noe on 29 felony counts.

"The jury certainly felt that he did [something wrong] and the judge in his sentencing of Mr. Noe indicated that the evidence was overwhelming," said John Weglian, chief of the special units division for the county prosecutor's office.

Noe is appealing his conviction on the grounds that the media attention focused on his case caused him to receive an unfair trial.

After The Blade began reporting on Noe's rare coin fund in April, 2005, a scandal erupted that led to the formation of a state and federal task force investigating corruption in state government.

In addition to Tom Noe, about 20 people have been convicted of crimes stemming from the probe, including former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, some of his top aides, former state officeholders, and former Lucas County commissioner Maggie Thurber, former Toledo mayor Donna Owens, and current Toledo city councilman Betty Shultz.

Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said Noe's conviction "speaks volumes" about his conduct. But he questions whether Noe, in part, was a "scapegoat."

"I've always been and remain convinced that this isn't about Tom Noe ... not about coins," Mr. Redfern said. "It is about who allowed Tom Noe to get to a place in state government to access this power? Tom Noe didn't just stumble on a pile of rare coins to invest state dollars into."

Mr. Redfern said he hopes that as Noe enters the state phase of his incarceration more will become known about how he secured the investment pact with the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Contact Steve Eder at: seder@theblade.com or 419-304-1680.



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