Homes of LA County Assessor searched as part of probe


The County Assessor assesses taxes based on a property's value. It is alleged in a Wednesday subpoena that John Noguez makes money by assessing properties for his own benefit.

Investigators searched the Huntington Park home of Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez along with 11 other locations in both California and Arizona. They are looking for evidence of alleged bribery and fraud involving tens of thousands of dollars.

"We're conducting a criminal investigation and just executing search warrants," said George Mueller, assistant chief, L.A. County DA Bureau of Investigation.

Noguez is suspected of under-assessing millions of dollars in property in return for thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and other money from property owners. His office at the County Hall of Administration was one of the locations searched.

"Overall you're looking at fraud, bribery, embezzlement -- those type of charges -- theft basically is what we're looking at," said Sandi Gibbons, L.A. County District Attorney spokesperson.

Noguez is in Mexico because of the death of his father and was not reached. In the past, he has denied any wrongdoing.

Also searched today were two properties in Arizona including a home in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley. Investigators are trying to find documentation they believe will lead them to proof of the bribery and fraud. At all locations they brought out boxes of possible evidence to use in the case.

Allegations are that in exchange for getting their multi-million-dollar property assessed at below market value, property owners paid Noguez. In return they allegedly got lower property taxes and saved themselves a lot of money.

His communications director says Noguez is cooperating with the investigation.

"In May of 2011 our office referred evidence of inappropriate activities of Scott Schenter to the office of the district attorney for criminal investigation. Today's warrant sought many of those records," said Louis Reyes, communications director of the Assessor's Office.

Schenter, who was an associate of Noguez, is also being investigated for similar charges. But the warrant also sought records that might be related to allegations Noguez accepted bribes for lowering property tax assessments.

"We don't have any details at this moment, and cant' comment on any matter that's being investigated," said Reyes.

The district attorney's spokesperson won't give details of the sealed search warrants.

"There are others that certainly are involved in the overall scope of the investigation, a home in Arizona and a business belonging to an individual," said Gibbons

Noguez has been investigated for months but Wednesday's subpoena opens a new chapter in that probe.

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