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Assessor corruption probe widening, grand jury expected, D.A. says

May 15, 2012|Jack Dolan and Ruben Vives | Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said on Tuesday that the corruption investigation of Assessor John Noguez has grown to include other individuals and that he intends to seek grand jury indictments in the near future.

In his first public comments about the expanding criminal probe, Cooley also accused the union that represents assessor's office employees of inappropriately interfering with the investigation by ordering members to refuse to cooperate without permission from Noguez's office.

"They're telling potential witnesses that, until they get permission from the No. 1 target, they can't talk," Cooley told The Times, waving a copy of the memo at a conference table in his office. He added that whoever issued the order will probably be the first person summoned to testify under oath in front of the grand jury.

The investigation, which began last year, has centered on tax breaks allegedly extended to Noguez campaign contributors and would-be contributors. Property tax bills are based on "assessed values," which are determined by Noguez's staff. A lower assessed value means a lower tax bill.

Noguez has denied any wrongdoing.

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