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By Brian Hews
A controversial birthday party to raise funds for jailed Los Angeles County Assessor John R. Noguez on Thursday night is being defended by the attorney and treasurer of the political committee that will be the recipient of the funds collected at the event.
Attorney Stephen Kaufman, with Kaufman Legal Group based in Downtown Los Angeles has been the longtime campaign attorney and treasurer for Noguez. On an invitation for the event that was sent to Los Cerritos Community Newspaper, the address of Kaufmann’s law firm is prominently listed.
Friends and supporters of the jailed assessor will gather at Leonardo’s Night Club in Huntington Park to “celebrate John’s birthday,” the invitation states.
Noguez is the central figure in what law enforcement officials call “the biggest political corruption case in the past 40 years in Los Angeles County.” If convicted on the dozens of felony counts of money laundering, forgery and accepting bribes, Noguez could face 20 to 30 years in prison.
Kaufman told Los Cerritos Community Newspaper in an interview Thursday morning that his firm is responsible for depositing the funds raised from the birthday party into an account called the “John Noguez for Assessor 2010 Attorney’s Fees Fund” in which he legally is responsible for maintaining and operating.
Kaufman said he “was not planning to attend” the party and claimed to know “very little about the details of the event.”
“I am an attorney for Mr. Noguez, but I will not comment about specifics on the event, and even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you anything,” Kaufman told LCCN.
When asked if he has been in contact with Noguez about the event, Kaufman said “you don’t know who I am, and I don’t even have to talk to you about this.”
The event for Noguez is being held at Leonardo’s Night Club in Huntington Park. The owner of the establishment is Leonardo Lopez, who is one of the biggest financial supporters of Noguez and his political campaign coffers for more than a decade.
Campaign finance reports obtained through the California Secretary of State confirm that Lopez has poured in tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to various Noguez campaign related committees over the years.
In an email to Noguez friends and supporters earlier this week the email stated:
“You can help John by making a donation today to help him make bail. Some of you have questions about donations given that there are certain reporters who are aggressively contacting anyone who is supportive of John. We all want to respect each other’s privacy, especially as private individuals who are not public officials,” the email stated.
When asked if he was responsible for authorizing the email be sent to potential contributors, Kaufman refused to comment. “I am not authorized to speak on this matter. I am the attorney for John, and I will not engage in a conversation with you about this event,” Kaufman said.
The Noguez birthday party invitation lists Kaufman’s law firm address, and campaign committee identification information. “Please make checks payable to The Noguez for Assessor 2010 Legal Fees Fund, 777 S. Figueroa Street, Suite 4050, Los Angeles, Ca. 90017.”
“The reporters know we do not want to speak with them, but they continue to harass many of us still. If they want to speak about John, they should call his attorney. We are tired of them using John to sell their newspapers as they face bankruptcy. We are especially tire of the illusions of grandeur of the pseudo-online news blogs run by trolls,” the email states.
“Therefore, if you donate $99.00 or less to the fund then your name will not appear on finance reports that are due at the end of the year. If you donate a total of $100 or more, than your name will appear on the financial reports that are public record,” the email claims.
When asked about the $99 donation request, Kaufman said “are you serious? I am not going to respond to your questions about this or Mr. Noguez, this conversation is over.”
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