John Noguez, ex-assessor accused of corruption, reemerges to support Huntington Park mini-mart proposal

John Noguez was once a rising star in southeast Los Angeles County politics.

He served several years on the Huntington Park City Council before being elected head of the L.A. County assessor’s office.

In 2012, he was arrested and charged with multiple felonies related to allegations of corruption in the assessor’s office. For years, he kept a low profile, appearing in court but otherwise staying largely out of the public eye.

Then recently, Noguez appeared at Huntington Park City Hall, advocating for a proposed Circle K mini-mart. His involvement raised eyebrows in the community.

At the March 29 Huntington Park Planning Commission meeting, Noguez spoke in favor of the project. He passed out materials to planning commissioners, according to people who were at the meeting.

“It was a little surprising to see him there,” Carlos Cordova, who was vice chair of the commission when Noguez spoke, told The Times. “Everyone knows him.”

Cordova said it was unclear to the commission whether Noguez was speaking as a formal lobbyist, a business partner, or just a supporter.

According to Cordova, the only reaction to Noguez’s presence came from a fellow planning commissioner, who said, “Welcome back, John.”

Noguez couldn’t be reached for comment.

The project applicant listed in city records, Leo Corona of Corona Construction, said the owner of the proposed store, identified in meeting minutes as Dell Singh, received Noguez’s assistance with City Hall.

Singh said Noguez is a personal friend and has been helping him with the paperwork necessary to get the store’s permits approved. He said he hasn’t paid Noguez for the assistance.

“I know him as a friend…. We were talking, and he said, ‘Let me help you with the paperwork,’ so all he did was paperwork help,” Singh said.

Singh said he wasn’t aware of the public corruption charges facing Noguez.

Noguez’s attorney, Charles Frisco Jr., said he didn’t know his client attended the meeting but said he was entitled to “be enjoying life as he should.”

“He’s innocent. He’s free to do what he wants to do. There’s no court orders prohibiting him from engaging in any activities,” Frisco said.

Prosecutors allege that Noguez took $185,000 in bribes from a tax consultant and, in exchange, his office would reduce property valuations for the tax agent’s clients. The consultant, Ramin Salari, and Mark McNeil, an executive in the assessor’s office, were also charged.

The case has been stymied by numerous delays, and Noguez still hasn’t gone to trial. Prosecutors with the district attorney’s office have said they are committed to prosecuting the case and blamed the stall on large amounts of evidence that needed to be turned over to defense attorneys. They also said Noguez and the tax consultant changed attorneys, starting the lengthy evidence review over again.

Prosecutor Craig Hum has said the district attorney’s office turned over more than 45,000 pages of evidence to the defense attorneys, along with recordings of interviews and thousands of pages of testimony before an investigative grand jury.

“We have been in court — we have been moving forward with the case,” he said. “It’s just taking a little longer than usual, even for these types of cases.”

The charges against Noguez and the others have also been amended several times. Noguez initially faced 24 counts of accepting bribes, misappropriation of public funds, conspiracy and perjury. In later complaints, the number of charges against him swelled to 36, but in the most recent amended complaint, filed last July, it was reduced to 25.

Noguez’s next preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.

adam.elmahrek@latimes.com

Twitter: @adamelmahrek

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