Wednesday, April 24, 2013
District Attorney Charges Noguez With More Crimes
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez and co-defendants Ramin Salari and Mark McNeil were charged yesterday with 41 new counts of embezzlement and other crimes.†
District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the new counts in the continuing investigation of the Assessorís Office corruption involve $9.8 million in losses to county taxpayers. Prosecutors at the same time dropped five counts, saying they had determined the alleged misconduct did not cost the county money.
Noguez, the assessor since 2010; Salari, an Arizona-based consultant; and McNeil, a principal assessor promoted by Noguez to head the Major Appraisal Division, all pled not guilty to charges contained in the amended complaint.
In addition to filing an amended complaint, prosecutors said they moved to seize more than $9 million in assets and property belonging to Salari, 50. The amended complaint charges the 48-year-old Noguez and McNeil, 55, with 11 new counts each of misappropriation of public funds.
Salari is charged with 11 new counts of misappropriation of public funds, 16 of bribery, and seven counts each of embezzlement and grand theft.
The amended complaint alleges that Salari paid more than $175,000 in bribes to former county appraiser Scott Schenter between 2002 and 2007 to reduce the appraised values on Salari-represented properties.
Schenter, who worked in the office from 1988 to early 2011, was charged last year in a separate complaint with allegedly slashing values on multi-million dollar homes, condos and businesses in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades. He allegedly secured campaign contributions from the owners of those homes and businesses for Noguez.
The 41 new charges involve 18 properties that were assessed at lower property values throughout Los Angeles County, including in Pasadena, Torrance and Van Nuys.
Noguez is charged now with 30 felony counts, including four counts of accepting bribes; five counts of perjury; two counts of conspiracy; and 19 counts of misappropriation by a public officer. The complaint alleges the fraud and embezzlement exceeds $500,000.
If convicted as charged, Noguez faces up to 38 years in state prison, prosecutors said. Salari is charged now with 59 felony counts and McNeil with 20.
Noguez remains the assessor, although the office has been under the control of an interim head since Noguez took a leave of absence last June. Noguez was charged in October and was jailed until an anonymous donor posted bail of more than $1 million on his behalf last month.
He is due to return to court June 26 for a preliminary hearing setting.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company