78 Felony Corruption Charges Refiled Against Former LA Assessor John Noguez, Two Others

Tax consultant Salari, Los Angeles County's Tax Assessor John Noguez, and Chief Property Appraiser Mark McNeil 2012 Booking Photos - Reuters Pictures Archive, Fred Prouser
Tax consultant Salari, Los Angeles County's Tax Assessor John Noguez, and Chief Property Appraiser Mark McNeil 2012 Booking Photos - Reuters Pictures Archive, Fred Prouser

LOS ANGELES (WOC) The longest criminal public corruption case in the history of Los Angeles County got a lot longer on Tuesday when District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that her office has filed a total of 78 felony charges against former Assessor John Noguez, and two others masterminded and engaged in an elaborate public corruption scheme that begin literally 10 years ago.

Back on October 17, 2012, Noguez was arrested on 44 counts of conspiracy, bribery, and corruption, with bail set at $1.36 million. The original complaint alleged, that Noguez accepted $185,000 in bribes from Salari between February and September 2010. Then District Attorney Steve Cooley and his team of prosecutors later added additional charges.

Los Cerritos Community News was the first to break details of the scheme and filed more than 100 articles on the case. The case eventually garnered national media attention for months.

The new refiled case replaces the original filing. The 2012 case was officially dismissed Monday in accordance with an Appellate Court decision in May, due to a technical procedural procedure. Noguez, whose real name is Juan Renaldo Rodriguez, Ramin Salari and Mark McNeil together face one count of conspiracy to commit grand theft and 14 counts each of misappropriation of public funds and grand theft. In the new case, Noguez alone faces an additional three counts of accepting a bribe, two counts each of embezzlement by a public or private officer and perjury declaration as well as one count of public records violation. Additionally, Salari, the tax consultant, faces seven counts of grand theft, nine counts of embezzlement by a public or private officer and 23 counts of bribing an executive officer.

Noguez and Salari also are jointly charged with two counts of grand theft.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes,File)
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes,File)

On Monday, the three defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges and are scheduled to return on August 12 in Department 50 of the Los Angeles Foltz Criminal Justice Center. WOC (WatchOurCity.com) will continue to cover the case until it is conclusion.

Lacey said that the alleged crimes took place from 1999 to 2011 and resulted in the loss of more than $10 million for the County of Los Angeles.

If convicted as charged, Noguez faces a possible maximum sentence of 36 years in state prison. Salari faces 59 years in prison and McNeil faces 22 years in state prison.

“WHATEVER HE WANTED HE WAS TAKEN CARE OF”

Bail on Monday was set at $1.16 million for each defendant. Noguez, Salari and McNeil were not taken into custody after the new case was filed. According to Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman in the District Attorney’s office, told WOC that the “bond from their original case was simply transferred to this case and they weren’t booked again.”

Deputy District Attorneys Bobby Zoumberakis and Casey Higgins of the Los Angeles County’s Public Integrity Division are prosecuting the case. The DA also confirmed that the case remains “under investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.”

Noguez was once a rising political star in California. Telegenic, well spoken, the former elected mayor of Huntington Park, Noguez had deep political ties to millionaire and billionaire donors throughout Southern California. During his election for Assessor, he raised north of a million dollars in his successful campaign, a record up to that point. It is alleged that a number of his donors had been given special treatment and many had the assessed values of their premier properties drastically reduced in assessed value.

The case spun into a tangled web of legal maneuvers and filings from attorneys representing Noguez, Salari and Mc Neil. At the time, Noguez claimed that the “bribes” were “loans” to his campaign for L.A. County Assessor and that he intended to pay them back presumably after the campaign was over.

“SALARI WAS LITERALLY GIVEN A FREE ACCESS PASS TO GO TO THE OFFICE AND BERATE THE EMPLOYEES WHO OPPOSED THE REDUCTION.”

The scandal came into the public glare when prosecutors acknowledged that they were looking into complaints from the assessor’s office employees who said they were “under pressure to lower property taxes” for Noguez political campaign contributors under the guidance of Salari. In one complaint, it was reported that appraisers inside the Assessor office, resisted reducing the assessed value of a property represented by Salari from $44 million all the way down to $30 million. In one case, it was alleged that two Hermosa Beach apartment complexes got refunds totaling more than $560,000.

Former District Attorney Cooley claimed in 2012 that Salari was literally given a free access pass “to go to the office and berate the employees who opposed the reduction.” Many employees interviewed at the time who work in the Assessor’s office said that Salari would “bully employees directly” in “condescending and bellicose tone.” At the time, McNeil’s role according to prosecutors, was that he was to help carry out the alleged scheme by helping carry out the tax reductions for Salari’s clients.

Salari’s clients owned some of the most expensive and premier buildings in Los Angeles County including businesses in Hollywood and parcels in Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Torrance, Los Angeles, Glendale, and Burbank. No property owners have been charged or are alleged to have any knowledge of the illegal schemes.

The new case is expected to reveal how some of Salari’s clients were given six-figure tax refunds from the county, according to court records. Some called the treatment of Salari from Noguez as “whatever he wanted he was taken care of.” The refunds were distributed in the form of checks from the coffers of the County of Los Angeles. Beyond the property tax refunds, it is alleged that the lower property valuations would also result in lower future tax collection by the County.

Noguez has hired and fired several attorney’s in defense of his case that has rolled on for almost a decade. In addition, the case was delayed at one time due to medical issues with an individual on the defense team and numerous legal filings and the recent appeal where defendants prevailed. Until today’s refiling of charges that is.

Potential witnesses to testify in the case could become a parade of some of the most wealthy and influential political powerbrokers that dot the Los Angeles landscape.

The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday afternoon reported that Noguez’s defense attorney, Anthony Falangetti stated that, “Mr. Noguez has always maintained that he’s innocent, and he continues to maintain he’s innocent. He intends to fight this.”

Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Hamilton also reported that Attorney Stephen G. Larson, Salari’s defense attorney, stated that the charges against his client are “completely meritless, both legally and factually.”

Larson told Hamilton, “I’m disappointed in the DA’s office. I do not think they thought this through, they should have used [the appellate ruling] as a time out to reevaluate the evidence. This case is going to be driven into a brick wall. It’s really problematic on many levels.”

No trial date has been set. This case has the potential to be the longest running criminal case in Los Angeles County history by the time it is concluded.

The 50 page criminal filing is in the pdf document below:

Noguez-Charges-July-27-2020