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County Assessor Arrested On Charges That He Was Disgustingly Corrupt

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Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, who has been on "medical leave" off and on since this summer, was arrested this morning at his home in Huntington Park on charges that he was ridiculously corrupt.Noguez, 47, is accused of taking $185,000 in bribes (almost as much as his annual salary of $192,000) from a tax consultant and campaign donor Ramin Salari, 49. Salariand Noguez's chief appraiser Mark McNeil, 54, were also arrested on bribery and corruption charges, according to a release from the District Attorney's office.

Here's how the scheme allegedly worked, according to the DA: Noguez would lowball the property values for Salari's clients in mostly coastal communities, including Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Torrance and Los Angeles, so that they could get out of paying steep taxes. In exchange, Noguez would receive bribes from Salari. Noguez allegedly accepted the bribes from Salari between February and September of 2010.

Noguez is being charged with 24 felony counts, which includes bribery, perjury, conspiracy and misappropriation by a public officer. Salari is charged with 23 felony counts, including bribing an executive officer, conspiracy and misappropriation. McNeil is charged with 14 felony counts, including conspiracy and misappropriation.

Noguez faces up to 30 years in state prison; Salari could face up to 29 years; and McNeil could face up to 20 years.

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District Attorney Steve Cooley said during a press conference:

"Los Angeles County voters and taxpayers deserve honest, hardworking elected and appointed officials who will serve the best interests of the people. Residents must have confidence that their government is not for sale to the highest bidder or the highest briber."

Another appraiser named Scott Schenter was already charged by the DA in a previous complaint. Schenter was charged in a case for reducing the estimated property values for wealthy property owners in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and the Pacific Palisades in exchange for campaign contributions.UPDATE 1:15 pm: Noguez's attorney, Michael J. Proctor, said in a written statement to City News Service that the defense "will vigorously defend Mr. Noguez in the courts, which is where this should play out." Salari's defense attorney Mark Werksman called the charges against his client "baseless" and said they "completely distort the relationship between Mr. Salari and the county assessor's office." He told CNS, "He never bribed anyone and he never received any advantage on behalf
of his clients. The reductions that he got in tax assessments were based on the
merits of each application and most were sustained on appeal."

Related:
Study: Los Angeles Is Second Only to Chicago in Public Corruption