LOS ANGELES – Corruption charges were filed Monday against a former Los Angeles County appraiser as part of an investigation into influence peddling claims involving the assessor's office.
Scott Schenter, 49, was arrested in Beaverton, Ore., and charged with 60 counts, including falsifying accounts and records. If convicted, he could face up to 33 years in prison. He was being held on $1.5 million bail.
A phone listing could not be immediately found for Schenter, and it could not be determined if he had a lawyer.
Schenter is accused of unlawfully lowering property values by more than $170 million while he worked for the assessor's office from 1988 to 2011.
He secured campaign contributions from the owners of homes and businesses — some in Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades — for Assessor John Noguez, authorities said.
District Attorney Steve Cooley said he doesn't believe Schenter's actions were isolated, and the investigation is ongoing. Cooley's investigators searched Noguez's home and office last month. Noguez has denied any wrongdoing.
The arrest of Schenter was part of an investigation launched last year by Cooley's public integrity unit into allegations that property values had been reduced for wealthy clients of Ramin Salari, a tax consultant and campaign contributor to Noguez.
"The magnitude of Schenter's suspected betrayal of public trust is almost inconceivable," Cooley said in a statement.
Salari's attorney, Mark Werksman, denied any wrongdoing by his client and suggested Schenter may have been a rogue employee.
"This demonstrates how dysfunctional and how problematic the assessor office was," Werksman said. "Mr. Salari was trying to advocate on behalf of his clients to get property assessment reductions. He did so lawfully, and all the reductions he got were justified by the appraisals and the comparables for the properties in question."
The reductions were discovered by Schenter's supervisor in January 2011, authorities said.
Schenter told the Los Angeles Times last month that he secretly reduced the assessed taxable value on high-priced homes in West Los Angeles by tens of millions of dollars, hoping the homeowners would contribute to Noguez's 2010 campaign.