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Assessor John Noguez seeks bail reduction

October 22, 2012 |  8:42 am

Assessor John Noguez

Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez and the tax consultant accused of bribing him, Ramin Salari, are scheduled to appear in court Monday to argue for lower bail and show that any money they use to pay it was not acquired through criminal means.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to a long list of corruption charges.

Prosecutors allege that Noguez took $185,000 in bribes to illegally reduce the values of properties represented by Salari so their owners would pay lower taxes. Salari charges his clients a percentage of their tax savings, typically 50%.

Salari is also charged with 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 Thursday, Salari's attorney, Mark Werksman, asked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba to reduce Salari's bail from $1.36 million to $575,000. Although Salari lives for much of the year in Phoenix, he has deep family and business connections to Los Angeles and is not a flight risk, Werksman said.

Further, Werksman said, the alleged crime had "no victims, so to speak, except for the tax collection efforts of the county."

"No, just every taxpayer in the county of Los Angeles," Torrealba shot back. She called the alleged crimes "an extreme abuse of public trust."

Noguez's attorney, Michael Proctor, said his client's $1.385-million bail is excessive and probably beyond Noguez's ability to pay. He asked for a reduction to $100,000.

Proctor noted that Noguez did not flee or go into hiding even though he has known for about a year that he was the target of a highly publicized corruption investigation.

Mark McNeil, one of Noguez's top deputies in the assessor's office who was also arrested on corruption charges Wednesday, posted bail Thursday morning. He has not yet entered a plea and is due back in court Nov. 7.


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