Assessor John Noguez arrested in corruption probe
Embattled Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez was arrested early Wednesday following a yearlong influence-peddling investigation that has roiled the office entrusted with determining property taxes on more than 2 million county homes and businesses.
The charges include bribery and corruption, authorities said. Officials are expected to release the full criminal complaint later Wednesday against Noguez, a career county appraiser who was elected to his agency’s top job in 2010.
He has consistently denied any wrongdoing throughout the course of the long-running investigation.
Last year, investigators for the Los Angeles County district attorney began probing secret, improper tax breaks granted to more than 100 wealthy Westside property owners since Noguez’s election. They also started looking into complaints from assessor’s office employees who claimed they were under pressure to lower property taxes for clients of prominent Noguez contributors.
At around 8:20 a.m., investigators with the Los Angeles Country district attorney's office took Noguez into custody at his Huntington Park home.
Noguez was wearing black shorts, a blue shirt and a baseball cap when the investigators initially arrested him as he answered his front door. He was taken back inside the house, where he changed his clothes, before being led by investigators into a white unmarked vehicle.
A few neighbors stood from a distance and watched as the incident unfolded.
Noguez took an indefinite, paid leave of absence from the $192,000-per-year assessor’s job in June after a former county appraiser was charged with 60 felonies related to the Westside property tax reductions.
The ex-county employee, Scott Schenter, told The Times that he granted the reductions in the hope of inspiring the recipients to donate money to help pay off Noguez’s campaign debt.
Schenter said he agreed to raise money for the campaign after Noguez promised to promote him. After that, Schenter said, the pressure from Noguez and his top deputies to come up with cash was “brutal.”
Noguez has acknowledged asking Schenter to look into some of the properties, but denies instructing him to reduce the owners’ taxes. He also denies having offered Schenter a promotion.
Noguez is expected to appear in court for his arraignment on Wednesday afternoon.
-- Jack Dolan, Jack Leonard and Ruben Vives
Photo: Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez is taken into custody by investigators with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office outside his Huntington Park home. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Video credit: Ruben Vives / Los Angeles Times