Osowik noted Noe’s silence, saying the politically connected coin dealer never “expressed genuine remorse.”
The sentence marked the end of a remarkable fall for Noe, 52.
He was a rising star in the GOP—a go-to-guy who knew everybody and helped raise campaign cash for Republicans across the state.
His rise to prominence coincided with a deal he struck with the state in 1998 to manage a $25 million investment in rare coins.
But instead of investing the money, prosecutors say Noe spent it on his business and a lavish lifestyle.
Prosecutors revealed for the first time Monday they calculated that Noe stole $13.7 million from the fund he managed for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
He spent $3 million in the first three months after getting the state’s money, Lucas County Assistant Prosecutor John Weglian said.
Prosecutors have not said whether he used the money to make campaign contributions to Republicans, including Bush and Gov. Bob Taft. But after the sentencing, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who helped in the investigation, said it would be easy to draw the conclusion. “You can make those inferences,” he said.
Noe acted as though he had “a bottomless cup of wealth and luxury at your disposal, when in fact it was at the state’s expense,” Osowik said.
The judge described the crime as an “elaborate scheme of theft on a large scale.” He expressed disbelief that Noe continued to steal even after a bureau auditor raised questions about the investment.
“You continued to spend the bureau’s money at what I thought was a shockingly, alarmingly large rate,” Osowik said.
Noe was the key figure in the scandal that dogged the state GOP for more than a year, culminating with Democrats winning a U.S. Senate seat and four of five key statewide offices earlier this month after 12 years of Republican rule.
He was convicted last week of theft, corrupt activity, money laundering, forgery and tampering with records. He faced a minimum sentence of 10 years on the corrupt activity charge, the most serious one.
The judge fined Noe $139,000 and will determine later whether he has to give up any more money or property. In addition, Noe must serve two years and three months—federally—for pleading guilty earlier this year to funneling $45,000 to President Bush’s re-election campaign.
Subsequently, Judge Osowik ordered Noe to pay $213,000 in fines and court costs, including $3 million for the costs of prosecution.
He is currently lodged (as Thomas William Noe, inmate #26157-018) at Milan Detention Center in Michigan and will be assigned to a fenced-in facility somewhere in the BOP (Bureau of Prisons, www.bop.gov) system.
Noe stared blankly with his head tilted as the penalty was imposed. His upper lip twitched briefly.
He appeared in good spirits when he was escorted into courtroom by two sheriff’s deputies. He even flashed a broad smile at his family and joked with his attorneys about a favorite restaurant.
He was somber as he was led out of court in handcuffs, when his wife mouthed “bye” to him and his sister gave him a wave.
Defense attorney John Mitchell had asked the judge for the minimum 10-year sentence, saying that other high-profile convicted felons had received less time for taking more money.
Before the investigation began, Noe was a member of state boards that oversee the Ohio Turnpike and Ohio’s public universities. He was a top GOP fundraiser who gave more than $105,000 to Republicans including Bush and Taft in 2004.
Investigators began looking at the coin investments after The Blade revealed the funds’ existence in April 2005. State officials initially defended the investment, saying it earned more than $15 million. But then Noe’s attorney told investigators the fund had a possible shortfall of $10 million to $12 million.
Authorities raided Noe’s businesses, where they seized coins, several $10,000 bills and collectibles such as a Christmas card signed by Jackie Onassis and Beanie Babies.
The state’s probe led to ethics charges against Taft, who pleaded no contest to failing to report golf outings and other gifts. Four former Taft aides pleaded no contest to similar charges.
The scandal sparked sweeping changes at the workers’ comp agency, which gave a total of $50 million to invest in rare coins. Democrats charged that Noe got the money because of his ties with the GOP.
Defense attorneys insisted during the trial that Noe had permission to invest the money and that the coin fund produced $7.9 million in profits over seven years.
Thomas Wersell, workers’ comp director of special investigations, said before the sentence was announced that Noe was a key figure in the agency’s downfall and destroyed its reputation.
“He lied and misled the agency at every turn,” Wersell said.
Bureau administrators, though, also have received their share of the blame. They ignored a warning about the coin fund and allowed it to continue.
“To pin the entire sins of the BWC on Tom Noe is disingenuous,” Mitchell said.