DA searches home of LA County assessor

AP News
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Posted: Apr 25, 2012 2:09 PM
DA searches home of LA County assessor

Corruption investigators searched the home and offices of the Los Angeles County assessor on Wednesday amid allegations that his department was involved in influence-peddling.

Prosecutors are looking at more than 100 properties to see if their assessed values were improperly reduced after assessor John Noguez was elected.

Investigators from the district attorney's office searched 12 locations, including Noguez's home and office, and the Phoenix home of a campaign contributor, Ramin Salari, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

She declined to describe what investigators were seeking. No immediate arrests were expected.

Salari is a tax agent who has achieved property tax reductions for millionaire property owners. A message left for Salari at his Phoenix-based company, Assessment Appeals Services Inc., was not immediately returned.

A message left by The Associated Press seeking comment from Noguez wasn't immediately returned, but he has denied any wrongdoing and specifically told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month that he did not perform any favors for Salari or his clients.

Assessor's spokesman Louis Reyes said the department was fully cooperating with the investigation.

Last week, former county appraiser Scott Schenter told the Times that he secretly reduced the assessed taxable value on high-priced homes in West Los Angeles by tens of millions of dollars, hoping the homeowners would contribute to Noguez's 2010 campaign.

Schenter resigned in January 2011 after his supervisor discovered he had reduced the value of 151 properties without authorization.

The Times also reported earlier this month that campaign contributor Jordan Kaplan had saved nearly $200,000 on the tax bill for his mansion because the assessor hasn't updated its value.

George Renkei, Noguez's chief of staff, denied to the Times that Kaplan's contributions played any role in the delay.

The AP could not find a phone number for Schenter on Wednesday. A message seeking comment from Kaplan was left at his office but it was not immediately returned.