Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

L.A. Now Live: Assessor Noguez, two others accused of corruption

October 18, 2012 |  8:11 am

Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, one of his top aides and a campaign contributor have been arrested in a political corruption scandal after a yearlong investigation into the office that determines property values -- and thus tax bills -- for more than 2 million homes and businesses.

Times investigative reporter Jack Dolan will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. Thursday to discuss the developments in the case.

Authorities allege that Noguez "turned his back" on Los Angeles County taxpayers and instead, engineered assessment reductions in exchange for campaign contributions.

According to the charges, Ramin Salari, a prominent tax consultant, gave Noguez more than $180,000. Assessor's officials in turn gave tax breaks to many of Salari's clients. Salari and Noguez aide and confidant Mark McNeil were also arrested and charged on Wednesday.

The alleged scam deprived the county of at least $1.16 million in tax revenue, according to prosecutors.

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley described the case as the most significant public corruption scandal involving a county official in decades.

"Honest taxpayers and the public at large, it seems, were to be damned," Cooley said. "Residents must have confidence that their government is not for sale to the highest bidder or the highest briber."

All three men have steadfastly denied any wrongdoing throughout the course of the investigation.

Noguez's attorney, Michael Proctor, said prosecutors had reneged on a promise that Noguez would get a chance to explain his side of the story before they moved forward.

"By arresting Mr. Noguez today," Proctor wrote in an email to The Times, "the district attorney's office is communicating that this was not in fact a search for truth, but a one-sided, result-driven investigation aimed at 'getting' Mr. Noguez."

Salari's attorney, Mark Werksman, said his client "advocated tirelessly for property owners and obtained large reductions in property taxes based upon the merits of each case." Werksman added: "There was no corrupt relationship between John Noguez and Ramin Salari and any employees of the assessor's office."