LA County's Assessor has been arrested for systematically reducing appraisals (and the concominant property tax bill) in exchange for bribes. Wow, sounds like a real culture of corruption, if you are looking for that sort of thing.
Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez and the tax consultant accused of bribing him, Ramin Salari, pleaded not guilty to a long list of corruption charges Thursday.
The men, who were arrested Wednesday, are being held on more than $1-million bail each. They are scheduled to be in court again Monday to argue for lower bail and to prove that any money they use to pay it was not acquired through criminal means.
Prosecutors allege that Noguez took $185,000 in bribes to illegally reduce the values of properties represented by Salari so their owners would pay lower taxes. Salari charges his clients a percentage of their tax savings, typically 50%.
Salari is also charged with paying $100,000 in bribes to a lower-level assessor's office employee, Scott Schenter, to illegally reduce property values. Schenter pleaded not guilty to fraud charges in May.
In total, the alleged scam deprived the county of at least $1.16 million in tax revenue, prosecutors say.
On Thursday, Salari's attorney, Mark Werksman, asked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba to reduce Salari's bail from $1.36 million to $575,000.
Although Salari lives for much of the year in Phoenix, he has deep family and business connections to Los Angeles and is not a flight risk, Werksman said.
Further, Werksman said, the alleged crime had "no victims, so to speak, except for the tax collection efforts of the county."
"No, just every taxpayer in the county of Los Angeles," Torrealba shot back. She called the alleged crimes "an extreme abuse of public trust."Noguez is, of course, a Democrat. He is also the former mayor of Huntington Park, a burgh conveniently located next to the notorious town of Bell; and, like Bell, a "heavily Latino city," as the media likes to phrase it. Noguez was also an anchor baby, born in LA, but raised in Mexico for the first six years of his life. In other words, we have a guy who has brought third-world approach to elected office to an American city. (Check out this long article from the LA Weekly, which details the brazenness of the scandal, and the big bucks his donors were willing to pay to get Noguez elected to these relatively low-level political jobs). The only thing we're missing are the names of the property owners who paid the bribes.
America never needed Mexican immigrants to come here to corrupt our institutions, of course. We've done just fine on our own, thank you very much. But, it sure seems like our progressive betters are aiding and abetting a spectacular level of corruption everywhere they take over.