Noe Investigators Confiscated Coins, Cards, Other Collectibles

MONCLOVA TOWNSHIP -- A search warrant affidavit filed by the State Highway Patrol says the company overseeing the state's investment in rare coins purchased a coin for $123,000 dollars and resold it for one cent. That was cited as possible criminal activity when the patrol sought a warrant to search Tom Noe's Toledo-area coin shop last week.

Investigators seized LeBron James rookie cards, Beanie Babies, comic books and thousands of other collectibles. According to the search warrant and related affidavits filed yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in Toledo, the patrol was looking for evidence of theft, tampering with evidence and obstructing justice.

Authorities say they aren't sure how much of the non-coin collectibles were owned by Ohio taxpayers. An attorney for Noe told the state last week that $10 to $12 million dollars is missing from the $55 million-dollar coin fund owned by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.  State officials say they plan to sue Noe and seek criminal charges.

The investment was part of a portfolio of investments controlled by the Bureau of Worker's Compensation as a hedge fund to protect its investment in stocks. Coin dealers and two national groups that track state investments said they know of no other state that has invested in rare coins, autographs or other collectibles.

The investment purchases included a 1792 silver piece worth about $2 million and gold coins minted in 1845 and 1855. Before the new estimate on the number of missing coins was disclosed, officials had said the state at times did better than the stock market, clearing a profit of nearly 40 percent, less Noe's commission. The bureau had made $15.3 million from the investments while Noe has collected about $3.8 million in commission.

Questions about the investment surfaced in April when two 1800s-era gold coins came up missing. Noe said they were sent to a Colorado coin dealer but got lost in the mail in 2003. The newspaper then reported that 119 other coins were missing. Noe said he thought the coins had been stolen by the Colorado dealer. Colorado authorities are investigating.

Meanwhile, Noe's legal troubles continue. A grand jury convenes tomorrow at the Toledo federal courthouse to investigate whether Noe violated federal campaign finance laws during the 2004 presidential campaign.

All this stems from a $2,000 a plate fundraiser for the Bush/Cheney campaign in October of 2003 in Columbus. Among the local Republicans at that event: Toledo City Councilwoman Betty Shultz, County Commissioner Maggie Thurber and GOP Chairwoman Sally Perz. Noe had already donated the maximum $2,000 individual contribution to the Bush/Cheney campaign.

The grand jury will investigate if Noe bypassed federal election limits by giving others money that they then gave to the Bush campaign. The Columbus event raised about $1.5 million dollars for the Bush/Cheney campaign.

The grand jury will decide whether Noe will go to trial. "Well, the whole process is to determine if there's enough evidence of a crime to indict somebody," said UT Law Professor Dan Steinbock. "The standard for the grand jury is whether there is probably cause--a fair probability--that a crime was committed and people named in the indictment committed it."

Sources tell News 11 as many as forty people could testify before the grand jury. Among them: Shultz, Thurber, and Perz. Who's not on the list? Noe himself.

Count on News 11 to stay on top of this story as it develops.

Posted by AEB