Assessing property taxes accurately is essential to local municipalities being able to plan their budgets into the future.
Short sale fraud is one means by which government is robbed of revenues to which it is entitled.
Now, public employees whose salaries and generous pensions are paid for by taxpayers have invented another way to steal from taxpayers: appraisal fraud.
Scott Schenter, a property appraiser for the Los Angeles County Appraiser’s Office, was the lowest man on the totem pole arrested in a large-scale public corruption scandal in that office. He has pleaded not guilty to the 60 felony counts with which he has been charged and is probably hoping for the best by squealing to the L.A. District Attorney’s Office against his former boss County Assessor John Noguez, Deputy Assessor Mark McNeil and private tax consultant Ramin Salari. The three men have all been arrested and charged in the case and all have pleaded not guilty.
The L.A. County D.A.’s Office has charged all four with allegedly shaving hundreds of millions of dollars from high-priced properties owned by clients of Ramin Salari. Court records indicate that Scott Schenter, who performed many of the property appraisals, received at minimum $275,000 for his “work.”
According to an interview with Schenter (assuming it was with the L.A. Times) in 2012 this year, Schenter responded to John Noguez’ request to “look into” expensive Westside properties after the latter had campaign debt to pay off in 2010 after being elected for L.A. County Assessor. Schenter then reduced the values of the homes by a whopping $172 million.
The scheme fell apart when Schenter’s supervisor in the Culver City office of the County Assessor discovered the lowered appraisal values.
The Los Angeles Times reported that its review of Schenter’s County emails from 2004 to 2011 following a public records request, showed that most of those emails were not related to his work for the County. As a taxpayer, I think an audit of how Schenter and possibly other County Assessor employees were spending significant amounts of their time on private business that “somehow” escaped the attention of their supervisors, is in order.
The LA Weekly has followed this story closely and published a number of articles.