Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez and an Arizona tax consultant have been arrested in connection with what investigators described as an "elaborate and complex conspiracy" that involved favorable tax assessments to wealthy campaign contributors.
Document: Criminal Complaint Against John Noguez
Investigators from the Los Angeles District Attorney's office took Noguez into custody in Los Angeles Wednesday morning, Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the D.A.'s office said. Ramin Salari, an Arizona tax consultant who contributed to the Noguez campaign, and a principal assessor promoted by Noguez also were arrested in connection with the case.
An attorney for Noguez said that the assessor - who is an elected official - never had a chance to defend himself to the District Attorney's investigators before the arrest.
Michael J. Proctor said the investigation was "aimed at 'getting' Mr. Noguez," and not a search for the truth.
"During the past few months, John Noguez has been given assurances by the District Attorney's office that he would have the opportunity to tell his side of this controversy before any final charging decision was made," Proctor said in a statement.
The assessor, Proctor said, "has a history of professionalism and cares deeply about the mission and the people of the assessor's office."
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Noguez is charged with 24 felony counts, including four counts of accepting bribes; five counts of perjury, two counts of conspiracy; and 13 counts of misappropriation by a public officer.
Deputy District Attorney Susan Schwartz said, in this case alone, the loss to the taxpayers was $1.16 million.
District Attorney Steve Cooley, who along with County Supervisor Mike Antonovich has called for Noguez' resignation, has said that the corruption probe might be the most important investigation of his career.
"Residents must have confidence that their government is not for sale to the highest bidder or the highest briber," Cooley said Wednesday when he announced the arrests.
Investigators also said that Noguez has been using an alias instead of his real name. The D.A.'s office included a copy of a birth certificate for Juan Renaldo Rodriguez in its press materials when announcing the arrests, saying that was Noguez' real name.
Proctor said that in using the other name, Noguez was simply Americanizing Juan to John, and adopting his mother's last name.
"His Mom was a Noguez," Proctor said. "She raised him."
The assessor's mother's name is Maria Carmen Anaya-Noguez, Proctor said. The reputed birth certificate lists her name as Carmen Anaya.
Salari is charged with 23 felony counts, including eight count of bribing an executive officer; two counts of conspiracy; and 13 counts of misappropriation. Salari also is charged with four counts of paying appraiser Scott Schenter $100,000 in bribes.
Schenter was charged in a separate complaint.
Mark McNeil, a principal assessor, is charged with 14 felony counts, including one count of conspiracy and 13 counts of misappropriation by a public officer.
Noguez, who was elected in November 2010, is has been under investigation for allegedly giving favorable tax assessments to wealthy campaign contributors and other associates.
Last spring, scrutiny intensified when Schenter was arrested and charged with slashing the values -- and tax bills -- of properties in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades in exchange for donations to Noguez's campaign.