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Backers of jailed Assessor John Noguez asked to donate bail money

November 3, 2012 | 11:13 am

Assessor John Noguez

Supporters of embattled Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, who was charged last month in a sweeping corruption case for allegedly reducing property assessments in exchange for cash, are now being asked to donate money so he can make bail.

An email sent Friday afternoon from Noguez’ personal account — signed by “Friends of John Noguez” — asked for contributions to the assessor’s legal fund.

“As you may know, our friend John Noguez is in trouble and needs our support more than ever,” the email said. “You can help John by making a donation today to help him make bail.”

Below was a link to a private website where donations could be made via credit card to Noguez’s legal fund. There were also instructions on how to send a check.

Noguez and tax consultant Ramin Salari were arrested last month on dozens of corruption charges, including bribery and misappropriation of public funds. Prosecutors allege that Noguez took $185,000 in bribes from Salari, who charges his clients a percentage of any tax savings, typically 50%.

Salari is also accused of paying $100,000 in bribes to a lower-level assessor's office employee, Scott Schenter, to illegally reduce property values. Schenter pleaded not guilty to fraud charges in May.

On Oct. 23, a judge refused to reduce Noguez's bail below $1.16 million, the amount the county allegedly lost in tax revenue because of the scheme.

The “Friends of John Noguez” email complained about the district attorney’s treatment of Noguez, and his “outrageous and unfair bail amount.”

“John deserves an opportunity to tell his side of the story,” the email said. “Yet John has been in solitary confinement for two weeks, isolated, and unable to have visitors.”

The email was forwarded to The Times by a source. The source asked to remain anonymous because of his friendship with the embattled assessor.

“I’ll be honest, I’ll probably send him fifty bucks,” the source said.

Michael Proctor, Noguez’s attorney, declined to comment. It’s unclear whether Noguez himself orchestrated the email or it was distributed by supporters independently.

In court last month, Proctor told the judge that Noguez could not afford to make bail as set and asked for a reduction to $400,000.

Both Noguez and Salari steadfastly denied any wrongdoing through their attorneys.

Noguez took an indefinite, paid leave of absence from the $197,637 per year assessor's job in June.

News of the fundraiser was first reported in the Los Cerritos News.

-- Sam Allen

Photo: Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez has pleaded not guilty to bribery charges. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times