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County Assessor on Leave After Fraud Allegations

The assessor's office allegedly reduced property values in exchange for political contributions.

Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez is starting a leave of absence after allegations that property values were lowered in exchange for political contributions.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to replace Noguez on an interim basis with Beaches and Harbors Department Director Santos Kreimann.

“I am eager to dedicate my full attention to reviewing and improving policies and procedures necessary to restore the public’s confidence in the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office,” Kreimann said in a statement. “My goal is to reestablish the department as the premier property assessment agency in the nation.”

Kreimann has over 20 years of experience in several county departments, and the board of supervisors picked him after a closed-door meeting that evaluated various county department heads.

County CEO William Fujioka, who recommended Kreimann for the job, reiterated his vote of confidence.

“Santos is a highly qualified county leader and is fully prepared to guide the assessor's staff in providing essential public services to county residents,” he said in a statement.

During his indefinite role at the assessor’s office, Kreimann’s three chief deputies will be sharing his duties at the Beaches and Harbors Department – Kelly Silverstrom, who handles day-to-day operations, Gary Jones, who focuses on the Marina del Rey visioning process and John Kelly, who heads all capital improvement projects, facilities and beach maintenance.

Meanwhile, district attorney investigators are looking into allegations that employees of the assessor's office worked hand-in-hand with tax agents representing property owners to low-ball property values in exchange for campaign contributions.

Scott Schenter, 49, an appraiser in the assessor's office from 1988 to 2011, was arrested May 21 and charged with 60 felony counts of falsifying accounts and records. 

Schenter allegedly reduced property values in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades by about $172 million, paving the way for lower taxes.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Patch Asks: Was it right for John Noguez to leave after fraud allegations?

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