Arrest Made in Ongoing Probe of County Assessor

By City News Service

A former appraiser with the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office was arrested today for allegedly falsifying documents and lowering property values by about $172 million in exchange for campaign contributions by property owners to County Assessor John Noguez.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Scott Schenter, 49, was charged last week with 60 felony counts — 30 counts of falsifying accounts and 30 counts of falsifying records. He was arrested in Beaverton, Ore., and was being held in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

Schenter worked for the Assessor’s Office from 1988 to 2011 and allegedly slashed the values — and the property tax bills — of multimillion- dollar homes, condominiums and businesses in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, according to prosecutors. He allegedly secured political contributions for Noguez from the affected home and business owners.

“The magnitude of Schenter’s suspected betrayal of public trust is almost inconceivable,” District Attorney Steve Cooley said. “We believe his actions are not isolated.”

Cooley last week called on Noguez to resign his post in light of the ongoing corruption probe of the Assessor’s Office.

The investigation focuses on allegations that Noguez and some of his staffers reduced property values for wealthy clients of Ramin Salari, a tax consultant and Noguez campaign contributor, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

“This investigation is active, ongoing and multi-faceted,” Cooley said.

According to prosecutors, Schenter’s actions led to refund checks being
issued to property owners involved in 30 of the criminal counts against him. In the other cases, the devaluation decisions were reversed before refunds were issued, prosecutors said.

His actions were initially uncovered by his supervisor in January 2011, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

He faces up to 33 years in prison if convicted. An arraignment date was not immediately set.

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May 21, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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