FLORIDA KEYS -- By June of last year, former Maumee coin dealer Tom Noe had joined his wife in Florida as his legal troubles connected to campaign contributions and Ohio's "Coingate" investment problems continued to swirl in Toledo. The Noes by now are working their way through the personal pain of the probes and finding peace from the problems.
News 11 anchor Jerry Anderson traveled to the Florida Keys to talk exclusively to Tom and Bernadette Noe. It was their first television interview since state and federal charges were filed against Tom. It's a look at how a couple and a family copes when trouble comes calling, and friends scatter.
They're singing at a Catholic church in San Pedro, Florida, and two of the voices belong to Tom and Bernadette Noe. Both were raised in the Catholic church. "Getting back into church, cantering again like I used to up at Devil's Lake and St. Joe's Sylvania really got me going again," said Tom Noe. "It got me charged up. Finally, when I let go and let God in, it was good."
The Noes can now find "good" in the pressures and legal problems Tom's faced. "I believe God uses these trials to bring us closer to him," said Bernadette Noe. "And I'm sure there's lot of people out there who will understand what I'm saying."
On September 13th, federal judge David Katz sentenced Tom Noe to 27 months in federal prison for arranging a contribution scheme to raise money for the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign in 2004. That sentence carried with it a $136,200 fine.
Prosecutors said Noe gave $45,400 directly or indirectly to 24 friends and associates, who made the campaign contributions in their own names, allowing him to skirt the $2,000 limit on individual contributions. Noe wrote several checks just under the cap to avoid suspicion, according to prosecutors. All of the checks were written in the eight days leading up to a fundraiser in October 2003 at a downtown Columbus hotel.
Noe, a rare coin dealer, is also charged in an ill-fated $50 million coin investment that he managed for the state workers' compensation fund. The scandal led to ethics charges against Ohio Governor Bob Taft, who pleaded no contest for failing to report gifts such as golf outings.
Noe has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
In her letter to the federal judge, Bernadette Noe says Tom's legal troubles have cost them virtually everything. The Florida house is in her name, and she says she's taken a nearly $1.9 million-dollar mortgage to pay his legal fees. The house is for sale. "The important thing about it, is it's okay. You know. It's okay. And I think that's a huge lesson. We don't need all that. Didn't need all that," said Bernadette.
She keeps a daily journal, which, she says, started as a prayer book. She works in family law. Tom, these days, works around the house. "He keeps a clean house," said Bernadette. "He'll tell you that I call him Hazel. He's getting good at laundry."
They still have friends, like the couple they met in the Keys that visited while News 11's cameras were there. But they also learned who their friends weren't, and that, they admit, was tough.
Tom awaits, almost confidently, his day in court on the state "Coingate" charges. "I'm hoping in October and November that people actually see what the truth is, because obviously I wouldn't be going to trial if I didn't think the truth is something different than what I'm being accused of," said Tom.
When asked whether he would be acquitted, he answered, "Absolutely I will. There's no question in my mind I will."
But for now, the focus is on each day, today, one day at a time. "We don't want to look back on this time period and see that we had wasted a lot of opportunities to be happy together," said Tom.