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Investigators serve warrants at assessor's home, 11 other locations

April 25, 2012 |  8:59 am

Investigators serve warrants at assessor's home, 11 other locations

This post has been updated.

As part of a wide-ranging influence-peddling probe, Los Angeles district attorney investigators served search warrants on county assessor John Noguez’s home and 11 other locations early Wednesday morning.

Among the locations being searched were the assessor’s downtown L.A. headquarters, satellite offices throughout the county and the Phoenix home of businessman Ramin Salari, a friend and campaign contributor to Noguez who has secured large tax reductions for residential and commercial property owners.

Investigators also served search warrants at two Internet service providers. Dave Demerjian, head of the district attorney’s public integrity unit, said the raids were meant to gather evidence and no arrests are expected today.

[Updated April 25, 9:24 a.m.: Assessor's spokesman Louis Reyes said Noguez is in Mexico and was not available for comment Wednesday morning. Noguez left the country last week to spend time with family after the death of his father, Reyes said.

"The department is fully cooperating with the District Attorney in their investigation," Reyes added.  Investigators were "asking to look at our records," Reyes said, but he didn't know what specifically they were looking for.]

Last week, a former county appraiser who secretly and improperly slashed tens of millions of dollars from the taxable values of Westside properties in late 2010 told The Times he did it in the hope that wealthy homeowners receiving the reductions would contribute money to Noguez.

Scott Schenter, the former employee at the center of a criminal investigation roiling the assessor's office, said Noguez had promised him a promotion in the summer of 2010 in the midst of Noguez's successful election campaign.

After that, the pressure to raise money for the campaign was constant and "brutal," Schenter said in an interview with The Times. Although he contributed himself and got friends to contribute, Noguez "called me a few times just to say, 'Hey Scott, we need more people; we're way behind in donations.' "

Reyes said Noguez told him over the phone that he "never offered Scott Schenter a promotion." Asked whether he had pressured Schenter to raise money, Noguez told Reyes that "thousands of people" had raised funds for his campaign and "Scott was one of them."

Schenter resigned in January 2011 after his supervisor in the assessor's Culver City office discovered he had reduced the taxable value of 151 properties in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades and other Westside communities without any explanation or authorization.

RELATED:

D.A. probing former appraiser in assessor's office

County seeks reasons for $50-million drop in tax estimate

L.A. supervisors grill assessor over change in property tax forecast

-- Jack Dolan

Photo: Los Angeles County District Attorney's Bureau of Investigation assistant chief George Mueller, left, and Captain Steve DePrima after their office served a search warrant at the home of Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez on Wednesday morning. Credit: Bob Chamberlin  / Los Angeles Times

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