Appeal Promised in Mileage Tampering Conviction

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The attorney for a Newport Beach used-car wholesaler said he will appeal a jury verdict that found his client guilty of altering odometers on older cars.

A county Superior Court jury Wednesday convicted Peter Sabatino Ognibene, 49, of nine felony counts of grand theft for turning back the mileage in the 29 cars he had sold to dealers in Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties in 1984-87.

Ognibene, a Newport Beach restaurateur, faces up to 10 years in state prison for the conviction, prosecutors said.

"It seems obvious to me that there was no fraud on the part of the managers of the used-car lots or their bosses," Ognibene's attorney, Jerry Werksman, said Thursday. "Unfortunately, the jury does not see it that way."

The used-car dealers bought the cars from Ognibene's now-defunct company, Lease Cars in Newport Beach, knowing that he had reset the odometers, Werksman told the jurors, so Ognibene could not have committed grand theft.

Ognibene "was guilty of odometers tampering, a misdemeanor, not grand theft," Werksman said Thursday.

However, Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrea Burke told the jury that the car dealers were "victims" of Ognibene.

"I'm not saying that in the industry, that cars aren't spun," Burke said Thursday. "However, that's the exception rather than the rule."

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