HUNTINGTON PARK (CBSLA.com) — Friends of embattled Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez held a fundraiser Thursday to help bail him out of jail.
Noguez, tax consultant Ramin Salari and assessor Mark McNeil were arrested in October and charged with misappropriation of public funds and other corruption charges.
All three were allegedly involved in reducing property assessments in the cities of Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach and Torrance in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash, with Noguez facing two dozen felony counts. The men deny any wrongdoing.
District Attorney Steve Cooley has said it’s the biggest case of public corruption he’s seen in his 40-year career.
Noguez is being held on $1.16 million bail.
His friends are hoping to raise enough money to bail him out. They held a birthday party and fundraiser Thursday night in Noguez’s honor — even though he turned 48 last week — at Leonardo’s restaurant in Huntington Park.
Event organizers sent an email last week asking for donations, noting that supporters’ names wouldn’t appear on end-of-year finance reports if they gave $99 or less.
A man, who didn’t want to be identified, said he attended the fundraiser.
“It was very quiet, just close friends, about 20 to 25 people,” the supporter said.
The attendees allegedly spent the night talking about how they knew Noguez and how they planned to bail him out.
“Everyone has the right to prove their innocence, so he needs to make sure he can actually pay for the bail,” said another man leaving the fundraiser.
CBS2/KCAL9 legal analyst Steve Meister said Noguez has some advantages over the average defendant.
“Most of us don’t have three or four Rolodexes worth of names to call upon to help us raise money for something like this. We all have our circles of family and friends, and that usually gets much smaller when you hit them up for legal fees or bail money,” Meister said.