SUN SETINEL-NOE BROTHERS INTERNATIONAL SWINDLERS
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Tuesday, February 26, 2002
BROTHERS BILKED VICTIMS FOR DECADES, AUTHORITIES SAY ; FEDS LABEL THEIR
HANDIWORK THE STUFF OF HUSTLER LEGEND.
Jon Burstein Staff Writer
The two businessmen working out of a tiny Boca Raton office
boasted to clients that they had the experience and reputation to
pull off financing for multimillion-dollar projects.
The men known as Clif Goldstein and Paul Randall -- founders of
Great American Trust Corp. -- relied on their years of deal-making
experience, but their reputation wasn't for the "fiscal integrity"
trumpeted in brochures, federal authorities said.
Those authorities say the two actually are brothers Clifford Dixon
Noe, 71, and Paul Howe Noe, 74 -- once "con men extraordinaire" whose
handiwork is the stuff of hustler legend. Earlier this month, the FBI
arrested them for allegedly bilking $3,000 from a South Carolina
Almost four decades ago, Clifford Noe was convicted of
embezzlement, mail fraud and wire fraud in Texas, a recent arrest
affidavit shows. He was in and out of prison from 1965 to 1991,
according to court documents, and had fraud-related convictions in
four states and Great Britain. Clifford Noe changed his name to Clif
Goldstein after being released from prison in 1991, the affidavit
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began scrutinizing the
Great American Trust Corp., known as GATCORP, in February 2001. It
identified 25 alleged victims who said they lost more than $1.1
million. Earlier this month, the SEC filed a civil fraud lawsuit
claiming the Noes and four others accepted money from businesses for
a venture capital program that didn't exist.
Since the brothers' Feb. 12 arrests in connection with the South
Carolina criminal case, other GATCORP clients are coming forward to
federal authorities. Besides the money they said they gave to the
brothers for supposed legal fees, the clients say they lost or could
lose additional thousands--in at least one case, millions -- from
waiting and planning for deals that never materialized.
"They didn't just steal money. They stole time, reputation and
credibility,"said Steve Hard, a Salt Lake City attorney who said he
gave the Noes $30,000 in hopes of getting funding for an internet
company. He said his project now appears dead.
Utah developer Todd Getz said he paid $170,000 to GATCORP for
legal fees but now expects to be out $8 million. He had sunk that
much into plans to develop Costa Rican beachfront property as he
waited for the company to coordinate a $54 million loan. Both Getz
and Hard said they have contacted federal authorities since learning
of the Noes' arrests, but the SEC lawsuit was filed before they did
Louis St. Laurent II, a former Lee County prosecutor who squared
off against Paul Noe in the 1970s, understands how capital-hungry
businessmen might be lured by the Noes.
"In person they are very, very convincing, unless you are an
expert in fraud," said St. Laurent, who is now in private practice in
The brothers, in the Palm Beach County Jail, await a Wednesday
court hearing to send them to South Carolina to each face three
charges related to the allegations in that state. If convicted, they
could face prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Kenneth Stein, their attorney, said the Noes' history should have
no bearing on the current criminal charges or on a civil fraud
lawsuit that the SEC filed earlier this month.
"They are certainly innocent until proven guilty," Stein said.
A London judge once described Clifford Noe as "an international
swindler on the highest level." The Wall Street Journal called him
one of the top "con men" of the 1970s. During that decade, there were
federal convictions for conspiracy, mail fraud and transporting
forged securities, according to an arrest affidavit.
In 1988, Fortune dubbed him one of the most fascinating people of
the year, the magazine saying the FBI ranked Noe among "the most
notorious white-collar criminals ever."
The Noes' exploits in the 1960s and early 1970s even were detailed
in a 1973 book -- The Fountain Pen Conspiracy.
The brothers' first fraud convictions came in 1965. They had
bought a Texas bank and almost brought it down by manipulating
millions in fraudulently obtained loans, according to the book by
Clifford Noe -- who used to call himself "Dr. Noe" -- was arrested
again in 1971 in England for attempting to buy a London bank with
forged certificates of deposit, according to the book.
The Noes lived in style, always staying in hotels' presidential
suites and eating at the finest restaurants, said St. Laurent, the
former prosecutor. When federal agents arrested Paul Noe in 1972, he
was in the midst of buying a Learjet, St. Laurent said.
Noe testified before Congress in 1973 on international bank and
mortgage schemes, according to a recent arrest affidavit.
The affidavit said Paul Noe has served prison sentences in Florida
and Texas. Clifford Noe, imprisoned as late as 1991, has been
convicted of fraud-related crimes in Texas, Illinois, Alabama and
Clifford Noe -- calling himself Clif Goldstein -- moved to Boca
Raton sometime in the mid-1990s, settling down in a modest $146,000
house with his wife and daughter.
Goldstein seemed like a quiet retiree, puttering around in his
garden and regularly attending temple, according to neighbors.
The two brothers incorporated the Great American Trust Co., or
GATCO, in South Carolina in 1984 and then registered GATCORP -- a
wholly owned subsidiary of GATCO -- in Florida in April 2000,
according to the SEC lawsuit. The brothers' arrest affidavit
indicates the names GATCO and GATCORP often were used
In their GATCO brochures, they boasted that the company managed $5
billion in trust accounts and had a "staff of professional trust
advisers" ready to guide customers.
The SEC alleges the brothers paid a network of financial brokers
to locate potential clients: cash-strapped companies or fledging
projects needing venture capital.
In interviews, GATCORP clients said they would fly into Boca
Raton, where the men they knew as Randall and Goldstein presented
them with plans for cash infusions. The Noes promised to provide
letters of credit from a "top 10 European bank" to back up a bank
loan for the needed money.
But clients also said the brothers told them they would have to
pay legal fees in advance for the deal to go through. The brothers
said they used a person named "M. Guter" at a Costa Rican law firm to
draw up venture capital agreements, court documents state. Federal
authorities have been unable to find that person, court documents
indicate. In January, Paul Noe told the FBI that "M. Guter" was dead.
The deal described by the Noes only got better. According to the
SEC complaint, the businesses were to give their loan money to
GATCORP, which would place it in high-yield investments that would
ultimately pay off the loans.
Before operating GATCORP, the Noes ran another company that
offered investors returns of 100 percent per week, the SEC alleges.
Hard, the Utah attorney, said he handed over $30,000 in June to
the Noes, who promised he would soon get $30 million he needed for
his internet project. But GATCORP spent the next eight months coming
up with ways to delay closing the deal, Hard said.
"We had management personnel we had recruited who were waiting for
funding to come in," Hard said. "But after three or four months of,
'Next week this is going to close,' they had to move on."
Hard said he threatened earlier this month to report GATCORP to
federal authorities if the deal wasn't sealed by Feb. 15.
But the FBI already was looking into GATCORP. In November, a South
Carolina bank loan officer reported to federal authorities "an
unusual financial transaction" involving a local golf-course
management company's attempt to get a $200 million cash infusion with
The FBI soon uncovered the Noes' true identities and learned of
the SEC inquiry.
Federal agents began taping phone conversations involving Paul Noe
and two of the Noes' alleged "finders" -- Russell Gerstein of Las
Vegas and Nuell Paschal of Carthage, Miss. On one of the tapes, Paul
Noe told the South Carolina client that GATCORP recently handled a
$125 million deal, court records state.
While FBI agents from South Carolina investigated GATCORP, Paul
Noe set up a December meeting with a French Canadian client who had
already plunked down $10,000 for a deal, St. Laurent told an FBI
agent this month.
The client came to the meeting with his attorney -- St. Laurent.
St. Laurent said he instantly recognized Noe, but Noe didn't
St. Laurent said he listened to Noe's business plan and questioned
him on it for 21/2 hours at the Friday meeting. At a meeting the next
Monday, he told Noe he knew all about his past.
"I thought he was going to pass out," said St. Laurent.
Paul Noe promised to return the $10,000 to St. Laurent's client --
then asked St. Laurent to become his attorney, the former prosecutor
said. St. Laurent declined and was soon talking to the FBI and SEC,
according to the arrest affidavit.
Besides arresting the Noes, the FBI has gotten arrest warrants for
Paschal and Gerstein. The SEC complaint names two other people --
Carolyn Kaplan and Noel Alelov -- as directing business to GATCORP.
Kaplan, of Norcross, Ga., is chairman of GATCO. In 1977, she was
sentenced to three years in prison for interstate transportation of
falsely made securities, according to the SEC complaint. Alelov, of
West Orange, N.J., is a consultant who refers investors to GATCORP's
programs, SEC records said.
FBI officials have declined to comment on the case.
Getz said he might sue but doesn't expect to see his money again.
Court records indicate GATCORP never kept more than $70,000 in its
Florida bank account.
St. Laurent, intent on gathering more evidence, said he plans to
keep a vow he once made to Paul Noe.
"I promised him 30 years ago that if he ever went back to crime,
I'd make sure he went back to jail," St. Laurent said.