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GOP Fundraiser Convicted Of Embezzlement

A GOP fundraiser was convicted Monday of stealing from a state investment in rare coins, a scandal that helped sink ruling Republicans two years after Ohio handed President Bush a second term.

Tom Noe, a politically connected coin dealer, was accused of stealing at least $2 million from the unorthodox $50 million investment. Noe also was found guilty of corrupt activity, money laundering, forgery and tampering with evidence. He was acquitted of some money-laundering and tampering counts that were among the 40 he faced.

The corrupt activity charge, the most serious one, carries a mandatory 10-year sentence because he was convicted on some of the other charges.

The trial put a spotlight on the embarrassing scandal for Republicans in the weeks leading up to the election last week. Voters fed up with government corruption scandals broke the GOP's 12-year lock on state government, electing Democrats to the governor's office, a U.S. Senate seat and three of four other key statewide offices.

National Democratic leaders watched the trial because Ohio again is widely expected to play a key role in picking the next president. The Democrats believe that winning the governor's office gives them a better shot at capturing the state in the 2008 presidential race.

Noe stood still and stared straight ahead when the verdicts were announced. He nodded when Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik said he would be taken into custody. He did not look at jurors while the judge asked them to confirm their verdicts, which they deliberated 2½ days. He was convicted of 29 of the counts.

After Noe was taken from the courtroom, his wife, Bernadette, and their three children huddled together and hugged in a front row.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation gave Noe $25 million in 1998 to invest in rare coins, followed by another $25 million in 2001. At the same time, he began his rise to prominence in state politics.

Prosecutors accused Noe, 52, of spending money from the coin fund on his business, his home in the Florida Keys and other luxury items. They did not say whether he used the money to make campaign contributions to Republicans, including President Bush.