By Aaron Blevins, 10/18/2012
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley announced on Wednesday the arrest of county assessor John Noguez, his chief appraiser and Arizona tax consultant Ramin Salari on charges that they engaged in an elaborate and complex conspiracy to slash property values and save millions in property taxes for Salari’s clients.
Cooley said the arrests and charges are part of a continuing investigation into public corruption at the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office. Noguez, who announced he would take a leave of absence in June, returned to work briefly before going out on an indefinite medical leave.
“Los Angeles County voters and taxpayers deserve honest, hardworking elected and appointed officials who will serve the best interests of the people,” Cooley said. “Residents must have confidence that their government is not for sale to the highest bidder or the highest briber.”
Noguez, whose real name is Juan Renaldo Rodriguez, was arrested at his Huntington Park home by district attorney’s investigators with the Bureau of Investigation. The 47-year-old is being held on $1.385 million bail.
Salari, a tax consultant and campaign contributor to Noguez, was arrested at a residence in Encino. The 49-year-old is being held on $1.36 million bail.
Mark McNeil, a principal assessor promoted by Noguez to head the Major Appraisal Division, was arrested at his home in West Los Angeles. The 54-year-old is being held on $1.16 million bail.
The complaint alleges that Noguez accepted $185,000 in bribes from Salari between February and September in 2010. Noguez also received a list of properties represented by Salari.
Soon after receiving the checks and the list, Noguez’ chief appraiser — McNeil — appeared at hearings and reduced the assessed value on numerous properties, including the Old Spaghetti Factory in Hollywood, and properties in Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Torrance and Los Angeles.
The complaint also alleges Noguez told appraiser Scott Schenter to “take care of our buddy Ramin,” and, “We have to take care of our donors.” Schenter was charged previously in a separate complaint.
Noguez is charged with 24 felony counts, Salari is charged with 23 felony counts, and McNeil is charged with 14 felony counts.