LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, a chief appraiser, and an assessor were arrested Wednesday following a year-long corruption probe by the District Attorney.
“It’s the most outrageous crime being committed in L.A. County by a public official,” County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said.
Noguez, 47, appraiser and Arizona tax consultant Ramin Salari, and Mark McNeil were arrested on bribery and corruption charges amid allegations that some property owners in the City of Los Angeles were receiving favorable tax assessments in exchange for political support.
KNX 1070′s Claudia Peschiutta reports District Attorney Steve Cooley says it’s the biggest case of public corruption he’s seen in his 40-year career.
Noguez, whose real name is Juan Renaldo Rodriguez, was taken into custody at his Huntington Park home. He faces 24 felony counts, including bribery, perjury, conspiracy and misappropriation by a public officer, officials said.
He is being held on $1.385 million bail.
Salari, who is also a campaign contributor to Noguez, was arrested in Encino and is being held on $1.36 million bail.
McNeil, a principal assessor promoted by Noguez to head the Major Appraisal Division, was arrested at his home in West Los Angeles by D.A. investigators. The 54-year-old is being held on $1.16 million bail, officials said.
The criminal complaint alleges that Noguez accepted $185,000 in bribes from Salari between February and September 2010, Jane Robinson, LA County District Attorney’s Office Press Secretary, said. Noguez also received a list of properties represented by Salari.
“Soon after receiving the checks and the list, Noguez’ chief appraiser – Mark McNeil — appeared at hearings and reduced the assessed value on numerous properties, including the Old Spaghetti Factory, and properties in Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Torrance and Los Angeles,” she said.
Noguez announced in June that he would be taking a leave of absence while the investigation was underway.
Criminal defense attorney and legal analyst Steve Meister told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO there’s a reason for the gap between when Noguez went on leave and his arrest on Wednesday.
“You gotta be careful with an investigation like this,” said Meister. “You can’t just drag a person from his job, ask publicly that he resign.”
Antonovich said that because Noguez was elected to his position he can’t be forced out unless he is convicted of the charges.
Scott Schenter, a former appraiser with the Assessor’s Office, was arrested in May and charged with slashing the values, and tax bills, of properties in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades in exchange for donations to Noguez’s campaign.
The complaint alleges Noguez told Schenter to “take care of our buddy Ramin,” and, “We have to take care of our donors,” Robinson said.
Schenter faces up to 33 years in prison if convicted.
If convicted as charged, Noguez faces more than 30 years in state prison, Salari faces up to 29 years, and McNeil faces up to 20 years.