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By Brian Hews
UPDATED AT 1:48 p.m.
An arrest has been made in the criminal probe into pay to play allegations at the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office this morning.
Copy of Complaint against Schenter
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said that a former appraiser with the county Assessor’s Office was arrested today for allegedly falsifying department documents and unlawfully lowering property values by $172 million.
Scott Schenter, who worked from 1988 to early 2011 as a county appraiser, allegedly slashed values on multi-million dollar homes, condos and businesses in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades. Schenter allegedly secured campaign contributions from the owners of those homes and business for Assessor John Noguez.
Schenter, 49, was arrested this morning in Beaverton, Ore. He is being held on $1.5 million bail.
“The magnitude of Schenter’s suspected betrayal of public trust is almost inconceivable,” Cooley said in a prepared statement. “We believe his actions are not isolated.”
The arrest of Schenter marks a new phase in the ongoing probe by law enforcement into the activites of Noguez.
Cooley told Los Cerritos Community Newspaper in an interview that this case “is the biggest in his 40 years as a prosecutor.”
Schenter’s arrest is part of an investigation launched last year by the D.A.’s Public Integrity Division into allegations that Noguez and several of his staff had reduced property values for wealthy clients of Ramin Salari, a tax consultant and campaign contributor to Noguez.
“This investigation is active, ongoing and multi-faceted,” Cooley said. He also told LCCN that the number of possible other suspects in the case is “beyond staggering.”
Deputy District Attorney Susan Schwartz filed a felony complaint for arrest warrant Wednesday, charging Schenter with 60 felony counts, including 30 counts of falsifying accounts and 30 counts of falsifying records. Schwartz said refund checks were issued to property owners in counts 1-30. In counts 31-60, devaluations were reversed before refunds could be issued.
The unauthorized reductions were discovered by Schenter’s supervisor in January 2011.
Arraignment information for Schenter will be announced later. If convicted, he faces up to 33 years in state prison.
A receptionist for Noguez at his office at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration told LCCN that the Assessor “was not at work today, and didn’t know where he was.”
“I am sorry, we don’t know where he is,” the employee said.
Los Cerritos Community Newspaper will have additional details throughout the day.
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