NOE
Will Shilling / AP File
Thomas W. Noe in a 2001 file photo.
updated 10/27/2005 9:06:29 PM ET 2005-10-28T01:06:29

A coin dealer and major GOP donor at the center of a scandal in Ohio state government was charged Thursday with illegally funneling $45,400 in contributions to President Bush’s re-election campaign.

Thomas Noe was accused in a federal indictment of giving money directly or indirectly to 24 friends and associates, who then made the campaign contributions in their own names. In that way, he skirted the $2,000 limit on individual contributions, prosecutors said.

“It’s one of the most blatant and excessive finance schemes we have encountered,” said Noel Hillman, section chief of the Department of Justice’s public integrity section.

Calls to the White House and Noe’s attorneys were not immediately returned. Prosecutors said the Bush campaign has cooperated with their investigation.

Noe also is under investigation over an ill-fated $50 million investment in rare coins he managed for the state workers’ compensation fund. Noe has acknowledged that up to $13 million is missing, and Ohio’s attorney general has accused him of stealing as much as $6 million. No charges have been filed in that case, though state officials say they plan to file charges.

Prosecutors would not reveal the names of the people to whom Noe gave money to contribute or say if any of them would be charged. The indictment said Noe and those who gave his money to Bush had conspired together to violate the contribution limits.

Two people who received just over $20,000 from Noe recruited others who then gave money in their own names, the indictment said.

The coin dealer personally contributed more than $105,000 to Republicans, including Bush and Gov. Bob Taft, during the last campaign.

An investigation into Noe’s coin investments led to ethics charges against Taft for failing to report golf outings and other gifts. The governor pleaded no contest in August and was fined $4,000.

U.S. Attorney Gregory White said prosecutors were negotiating Noe’s surrender with his lawyer.

Noe’s attorney, Bill Wilkinson, said in a statement that Noe’s surrender was complicated by the fact that Noe was in South Florida and that many courthouses there were still closed because of Hurricane Wilma.

If convicted, Noe faces up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $950,000.

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