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Former L.A. County appraiser is arraigned

Scott Schenter is charged with unlawfully lowering property values by $172 million, allegedly to secure campaign contributions from the owners for Assessor John Noguez. He pleads not guilty.

May 26, 2012|By Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times
  • Scott Schenter slashed assessments of properties on the Westside, including in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, prosecutors say.
Scott Schenter slashed assessments of properties on the Westside, including… (Multnomah County Sheriff's…)

Scott Schenter, the former Los Angeles County appraiser who was charged with falsifying records and unlawfully lowering property values by $172 million, was arraigned Friday and pleaded not guilty to 60 felony counts.

Prosecutors say Schenter slashed assessments of properties on the Westside, including in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades. He allegedly did so to secure campaign contributions from the owners for Assessor John Noguez.

Schenter's arraignment came days after he was arrested in Oregon. He remains in jail in lieu of $1.5-million bail.

A preliminary hearing is set for June. If convicted, the former appraiser faces up to 33 years in prison.

Schenter told The Times last month that he secretly and improperly lowered property values to reduce the owners' tax bills. He said he did so in the hope that the owners would donate to Noguez.

Schenter, 49, also said Noguez offered him a promotion and, along with several top aides, had applied pressure to raise campaign funds.

Through a spokesman, Noguez has denied offering Schenter a promotion, instructing him to lower the values of the Westside properties or asking him to approach the owners for contributions.

Noguez acknowledged, however, that he asked Schenter to "check the status" of some of the properties. He has also admitted asking Schenter to help raise money for his campaign.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley has identified Noguez as one of the primary targets of the broader influence-peddling investigation, which began last year. Also under scrutiny are several high-ranking assessor's office employees and Noguez campaign contributors, including tax consultant Ramin Salari.

Salari's clients dominated the list of property owners who received improper tax breaks from Schenter. Salari has denied any wrongdoing.

Two top county officials have urge Noguez to resign.

Noguez has denied any wrongdoing and said he has no intention of stepping down.

ruben.vives@latimes.com

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