Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez and co-defendant Ramin Salari pleaded not guilty today to new counts of embezzlement and grand theft based on allegations that the assessor's office reduced property tax assessments for political donors as far back as 1996.
Noguez, who was elected assessor in 2010, has been on leave since he was arrested Oct. 17, 2012, in the probe of his office, which included the arrests of appraiser Scott Schenter, chief appraiser Mark McNeil and campaign contributor and tax consultant Salari.
Noguez, 48, and Salari, 50, appeared before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli and were arraigned on three new counts each of embezzlement and grand theft.
Noguez is also charged with 19 counts of misappropriation of public funds, five counts of perjury by declaration, four counts of accepting a bribe and two counts of conspiracy, for a total of 36 felony counts.
The new counts involve three additional downtown properties appraised at a lower value, according to prosecutors. More than $10 million in taxpayer money was allegedly lost as a result of the illegal tax reductions related to those properties and others in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Pasadena, Marina del Rey and the South Bay.
Salari also pleaded not guilty to an additional three counts each of embezzlement and grand theft, bringing the number of felony charges against him to 65.
The tax consultant then appeared in a second downtown courtroom to answer three charges of tax evasion brought by the Public Integrity Division in a related case. Salari pleaded not guilty there as well.
Noguez and Salari are scheduled to return to court on Jan. 30 to set a date for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for them to stand trial.
If convicted, the assessor faces more than 50 years in jail. Salari faces more than 75 years.
In May 2012, then-District Attorney Steve Cooley called for Noguez to resign, saying:
"This particular case, what I know about it, strikes me as the largest and most significant public corruption case in terms of county government, very, very significant, very substantial. This is an elected official and this is a serious case involving bribery and corruption."