MIAMI (CBSMiami)—The co-owner of a well-known classic car auto dealership says a blaze that caused $1 million in damage to her business was “set in 3 places.”
“There’s extensive damage here and I am feeling anger. Anger is part of the hurt we have and we work 18 hours a day and to have something like this happen,” said Robin Vernon, the co-owner of Ted Vernon Specialty Autos at 8301 N.W. 7th Ave.
A CBS4 crew captured a striking site on N.W. 7th Ave. Thursday afternoon as the charred remains of two vintage cars were taken away from the business.
Vernon told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “It’s disgusting. We give a lot to the community. We help our neighbors. We try to do the right thing.”
“It was lit in three places,” said Vernon. “It has to be, completely, arson.”
Authorities are calling the blaze “suspicious.”
Vernon said she had received threats in the past.
“I’ve been calling the police department about quite a few threats made to us and one person threatened to blow up the place,” she said.“We’ve also had a few evictions on other buildings that we own. People get angry when they leave. They don’t understand why they have to leave.”
“I just went through an eviction last week of an entire Marina,” she said. “So God only knows it could be anyone. They tend to join forces.”
“I’m taking precautions,” she said. “We have security cameras. I am armed at all times. I carry a gun at all times. I am not afraid to use it.”
Vernon said she had a list of people who might have set the fire and will give police those names. She mentioned a former disgruntled employee who was fired after giving the company a “fake id.”
“I take these threats seriously because someone could have died today,” she said.
CBS4 also discovered in a check of records that Vernon and her company had filed a request for a restraining order against Felipe Lizano, who had been an independent contractor for her company.
The petition said that Lizano struck or threatened Vernon and four other employees. It was filed in August 2013 and said, “Defendant Lizano threatened to blow the s… up and said you are going to
get what’s coming.”
The petition also said, “Defendant Lizano specifically threatened Robin Ziel that she was going to get and said I am going to blow you up.”
No suspects have been identified.
Miami-Dade police spokesman, Detective Robin Pinkard, said police have responded to seven calls for help from the business since 2011.
She said two complaints were “domestic” and one involved a dispute of some sort. Another call for help involved a dispute “between landlord and tenant.”
Pinkard said a 5th complaint involved a “verbal threat.” She said records were not available on two other calls for help. She said police received only one call for help from the business this year.
As many as two dozen of the 350 vintage vehicles at the business were damaged or destroyed.
“At this time, this looks suspicious,” said Miami-Dade Fire Department Battalion Chief Ray Jadallah.
It took an hour for firefighters to put out the blaze and minimize the damage. They prevented the fire from spreading the showroom and the rest of the cars.
“Just the sheer magnitude and the number of the vehicles and zero visibility,”said Jadallah. “The firefighters did a really good job trying to get this fire under control.”
The blaze was contained in storage area.
Co-owner Ted Vernon is a well-known classic car dealer. He recently spoke with CBS4 about his passion for the vintage Ford Mustang during the car’s 50th anniversary.
The Vernons also have their own TV show called “South Beach Classics.” Their cars have also been used in commercials and films.
Ted Vernon was out of town for filming. He told CBS4’s Natalia Zea that his own Rolls Royce was damaged in the fire, as was as Vintage car that belongs to an unidentified South Florida celebrity.
Ted Vernon has been in the car business for more than 30 years.
Robin Vernon said her business has surveillance cameras. But they did not capture the suspect or suspects who set the fire. “They were pointed in the wrong direction,”she said.
She said she was planning to contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers about offering a $25,000 reward.
Arson investigators spent Thursday at the business. No suspects have been identified.
Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at
(305) 471-TIPS (8477).