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By Randy Economy and Brian Hews
A list of more than 170 properties that received massive property appraisal reductions under the guise of recently arrested Los Angeles County Property Appraisal Specialist Scott Schenter has been published by Los Cerritos Community Newspaper on Friday.
The properties are part of a massive criminal probe that has engulfed the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office during the past five months. Los Cerritos Community Newspaper was the first media outlet to report on the massive “pay to play” scheme that has already resulted in the arrest of Schenter and the possible arrests of several others in the near future.
The list of properties was obtained by Los Cerritos Community Newspaper in mid late January. Publisher Brian Hews said in a statement on Friday that his publication decided to publish the list “due to the enormity of the corruption case, and for the greater good of the public to understand the complexities of the case.”
On the list of properties, nearly 20% of them were represented by property tax agent Ramin Salari and his company Assessment Services; and an additional 20% are represented by property tax agent Jeffrey Lloyd who oversees a firm in West Hollywood called Horizon Realty, Inc which Property Tax Back is a subsidiary. The total property tax reduction amounted to almost $40 million which would equate to over $520,000 in rebated taxes to property owners of which a portion would go to Salari and Lloyd for their services.
LCCN has documents showing Salari asked for a minimum of 50% commission on each reduction.
Salari has contributed thousands of dollars in political donations to Noguez during the past number of years going back to when the Assessor served as a City Councilman and Mayor in the City of Huntington Park.
Lloyd and Salari have not returned dozens of phone calls and email requests for interviews from Los Cerritos Community Newspaper during the past six months.
LCCN also published a list of each and every political contributor to Noguez during the past three years on Friday. On this list are more than 40 employees who work directly for Noguez, including multiple contributions of $1,000 from family members of assessor employees.
On the contribution lists include donations from current Assessor Chief of Staff George Reinke, Appraiser Milan Garcia, Chief Appraiser Eric Haagenson, Principal Appraiser Mark McNeil, Assessment Appeals Board Member E. Kathleen McWatters, Appraiser Sharon Moller, and Special Assistant Jeffrey Prang who is also the current mayor of West Hollywood.
Others who appear as major contributors to Noguez is indicted appraiser Schenter and close ally Andrew C. Stephens, who is a member of the assessor’s inner circle. Stephens and three other members of his immediate family, Dale Stephens, Jon Stephens and Virginia Stephens are listed as $1,000 contributors to the Noguez campaign. David A. Zoraster, another key Noguez Appraiser contributed three donations in the amounts of $750, $250 and $1,000.
Another key contributor to Noguez is current Westlake Village City Councilman Robert Slavin, who is an attorney and owner of Assessment Counseling Services out of Thousand Oaks. Slavin and his wife Laurie are listed as giving five contributions at $1,000 each to Noguez. Slavin denied several interview requests about his relationship with Noguez, but did issue a written statement to this reporter on Thursday:
“My firm is adverse to the Assessor in numerous active assessment appeals. Moreover, I have not been engaged to handle media relations on behalf of any of my clients, and allowing me to be interviewed as you ask would exceed the scope of my engagements. It would simply not be responsible for me to comment about any aspect of the Assessor’s office while these contested assessment disputes remain pending,” Slavin said.
“I very much appreciate your efforts to keep the public informed. But, all things considered, I feel it best to simply respect the investigative process now underway, and let that process run its course without comment from me,” Slavin said.
The total amount of donors listed in the documents published by LCCN is in access of $963,000.
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