A former appraiser for the Los Angeles County Assessor's Office pleaded not guilty Friday to 60 felony counts related to falsifying documents and reducing property values by $172 million in exchange for campaign contributions to Assessor John Noguez.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra ordered Scott Schenter, 49, to remain jailed on $1.5 million bail pending a bail review hearing June 5.
A June 8 hearing is scheduled to determine if there is enough evidence to require Schenter to stand trial on 30 counts of falsifying accounts and 30 counts of falsifying records.
Schenter, who was arrested Monday in Beaverton, OR, faces up to 33 years in prison if convicted.
Schenter worked for the Assessor's Office from 1988 to 2011. He allegedly slashed the values—and the property tax bills—of multimillion-dollar homes, condominiums and businesses in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades to secure political contributions for Noguez from the affected home and business owners.
"The charges against defendant Schenter reflect the seriousness of his conduct, and there is an ongoing investigation into other matters that may affect other people in the Assessor's Office. But at this point, we can't really comment on an ongoing investigation," Deputy District Attorney Susan Schwartz told reporters after the brief hearing, in which Schenter turned his back to news photographers and camera crews.
The prosecutor noted the alleged devaluation was $172 million, but that the exact dollar loss has not yet been calculated.
Following Schenter's arrest, District Attorney Steve Cooley said, "The magnitude of Schenter's suspected betrayal of public trust is almost inconceivable. We believe his actions are not isolated."
Cooley last week called on Noguez to resign his post in light of the ongoing corruption probe of the Assessor's Office.
The investigation focuses on allegations that Noguez and some of his staffers reduced property values for wealthy clients of Ramin Salari, a tax consultant and Noguez campaign contributor, according to the District Attorney's Office.
"This investigation is active, ongoing and multi-faceted," Cooley said.
According to prosecutors, refund checks were issued to property owners in connection with 30 of the criminal counts against Schenter. In the other cases, the devaluation decisions were reversed before refunds were issued, prosecutors said.
The unauthorized reductions were initially uncovered by Schenter's supervisor in January 2011, according to the District Attorney's Office.