updated 9/12/2006 5:21:01 PM ET 2006-09-12T21:21:01

A rare-coin dealer and GOP fundraiser at the center of a scandal that has rocked Ohio's Republican Party was sentenced to more than two years in prison Tuesday for illegally funneling about $45,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign.

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Tom Noe, 51, apologized in court for a scheme in which he gave money to friends with instructions to donate it to Bush.

He had pleaded guilty to three charges, including exceeding federal campaign contribution limits, and was sentenced to two years and three months in prison. He was also fined $136,200.

Additional charges
Noe is also charged with embezzling at least $1 million from an ill-fated $50 million rare coin investment that he managed for the state workers' compensation fund. Federal prosecutors did not indicate during the hearing whether the coin money was used for the donations. They could have sought a stiffer penalty if they thought the state money had been used.

Investigations into the coin investment led to Republican Gov. Bob Taft's no-contest plea to charges he failed to report gifts such as golf outings.

Ohio embarassment
The case has been a major embarrassment to the Ohio GOP, which has long dominated Ohio politics. Noe donated to many Republican figures.

U.S. District Judge David Katz told Noe that he was trying to feed his ego and made a stupid decision. "He has risen in the past to positions of respect and power and he violated the trust of those who placed him in those positions," Katz said.

Prosecutors said Noe gave $45,000 directly or indirectly to 24 friends and associates, who made the Bush campaign contributions in their own names, allowing him to skirt the $2,000 individual contribution limit.

Federal prosecutors say Noe made the donations because he wanted perks such as invitations to the White House and the president's ranch in Texas, and he wanted to impress various state officials.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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