Ethics Panel Expands Probe Into Ohio Comp Bureau Investments

Ohio taxpayers may own 3,500 bottles of expensive wine and 265 illegal Cuban cigars found in the cellar of the suburban Denver home of a former employee of coin dealer Tom Noe.

Authorities on Friday seized the wine, cigars, hundreds of rare coins, computers and documents from the home and office of Michael Storeim, a former manager of a subsidiary of Ohio’s $50 million coin venture.

Some of the items taken may have been purchased using the state’s investment into rare coins, said Jacki Tallman, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County, Colorado, sheriff’s office.

Meanwhile, the investigation of Noe’s dealings with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is expanding to look at the agency’s other investments.

Ohio officials will begin reviewing the bureau’s investment practices and those involved with those decisions, David Freel, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission said Monday.

Several Ohio agencies, including the commission, have been looking into former public officials and employees as part of the investigation of Noe’s investment of $50 million in state money in rare coins.

Noe’s attorney has said that $10 million to $12 million is missing from the coin fund.

About 10 technicians and investigators executed warrants at Storeim’s home and office in Evergreen, Colo., Tallman said.

Colorado authorities are conducting a separate criminal investigation involving possible felony theft and forgery charges, she said, but are sharing information with Ohio officials.

“Ours is a very active and aggressive investigation,” she said.

Storeim managed Numismatic Professionals, a Colorado subsidiary set up by Noe to buy and sell rare coins in the state, before he resigned in March 2004. At least 121 coins owned by the bureau have been reported missing or stolen from the Colorado office.

Tallman said investigators “have some information that leads us to believe” the wine and 265 Cuban cigars, which are illegal to possess, were bought with bureau funds through Numismatic Professionals.

She declined to elaborate, and the search warrant is sealed.

Authorities said they called in a locksmith to change the lock on Storeim’s wine cellar to make sure he didn’t have access to the bottles.

Storeim has not been charged with any crime.

Storeim’s attorney Brian Jeffrey released a prepared statement saying his client is convinced that a thorough investigation will exonerate him.

Storeim has sued Noe, saying he had two associates confiscate $500,000 worth of Storeim’s property.

The bureau hired Noe, a prominent Republican contributor, in 1998 to invest money in coins to hedge its investments in stocks and bonds.

The bureau also hired 24 other fund managers to invest the bureau’s money. Freel would not discuss whether the Ethics Commission intends to look at those other fund managers and their investments.

The state plans to sell its coin collection, which represents less than 1 percent of the bureau’s total $14 billion in investments, and Noe has resigned as manager of the investment.

On Monday, the state formally hired former federal bankruptcy judge William T. Bodoh to oversee the liquidation of the state’s two coin funds.

The Controlling Board approved a $75,000 contract with Bodoh’s firm, Cincinnati-based Frost Brown Todd. The firm will be paid $175 an hour for a contract that runs through June 30, the end of the budget year.

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