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Judge Dismisses Theft Charges on Car Dealer

Grand theft charges against the owners of a Mission Hills car dealership have been dismissed, a deputy district attorney said this week.

The charges against Robert Petricca, 43, and Michael Hadley Epstein, 31, co-owners of the House of Corvettes and Classics on Sepulveda Boulevard, stemmed from allegations that they took money for a car that failed to meet California emissions-control requirements, Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Bershin said.

San Fernando Municipal Court Judge Paul Metzler on Friday dismissed two counts of felony grand theft against the two men after finding the evidence failed to show that the dealer intended to defraud the buyer, Bershin said.

The district attorney’s office pursued the case after Ashley Hester of Los Angeles complained to the state Department of Consumer Affairs that the dealers refused to refund her money for a 1975 Corvette that failed to pass the state’s car emissions test. Without a smog certificate, Hester was unable to register her car.

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When Hester took the car back to the dealership in October, 1984, one month after the sale, the dealers sent it to Hi-Tech Automotive in Mission Hills for emissions adjustments and charged her for additional repairs, according to court documents. But the car failed the smog test again, records showed.

An attorney for the defendants argued that Hester had bought the car “as is and was not entitled to a refund,” Bershin said.

Because Hi-Tech Automotive actually did the repair work, and not the dealers, it was difficult to prove that the defendants had the intent to steal, Bershin said.


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