A former employee of the classic car shop that burned down in Miami last week is fighting back, after he says the business' co-owner blamed him for the destructive blaze.
Augusto Agostini told NBC 6 exclusively that he believes he's the one co-owner Robin Vernon meant when she pointed the finger at a disgruntled former employee. The only catch is he was in jail at the time.
“She did a lot damage to me and my family,” Agostini told NBC 6 exclusively Monday.
Agostini said his reputation has been marred after the fire that hit Ted Vernon Specialty Autos, home to the "South Beach Classics" reality TV show, located at 8301 Northwest 7th Avenue.
Vernon said the morning of the fire that she she thought it was sparked by "a disgruntled employee who we simply fired after we found out he provided a false identification."
Police have not identified any suspect in the fire as of Monday evening.
"I’ve been complaining to the Miami-Dade Police Department about somebody that threatened to burn down our places," Vernon also said last week of the fire.
Agostini believes Vernon is talking about him, because he had been arrested on an identity theft charge in Broward County — a charge that was later dropped — after moving to South Florida earlier this year. He was arrested again in July in Miami due to a document he said stemmed from the Broward case.
But an arrest is what Agostini said proves he didn’t set the fire.
“It is impossible, because at time the fire was going on, I was being counted on a head count from the county jail,” Agostini said.
Agostini was arrested on July 10 but wasn’t released until July 26 – two days after the fire took place.
He showed NBC 6’s Willard Shepard what he said were threatening text messages he said Vernon had sent him. One text said “no mercy and promise." He said it was sent a week before police took him away.
“I went to the police department, and I did a restraining order against her, because there were a lot of threats on my phone she'd text me,” Agostini said.
Agostini said he was watching television inside the jail when he saw Vernon’s comments.
“Just because I have these tattoos and all this doesn’t make me an arsonist,” Agostini said. “I never did none of that.”
The Vernons' attorney told NBC 6's Shepard he didn't want his clients speaking on television. The lawyer did say both want to get to the bottom of who started the fire.
The fire caused about $1 million in damages, and the Vernons said the cars were not insured.