Miami Reality Star Sentenced to Federal Prison for Gun Possession

Classic-car dealer Ted Vernon starred for four seasons on the Discovery Channel's South Beach Classics.
Classic-car dealer Ted Vernon starred for four seasons on the Discovery Channel's South Beach Classics. Courtesy photo
After decades of dodging charges for violent crimes, Ted Vernon, the former star of Discovery Channel's South Beach Classics, has been ordered to report to federal prison after violating a probation sentence.

In 2018, Vernon's probation officer found two antique rifles in an office at the reality star's classic-car dealership in Miami's Little River neighborhood, despite restrictions barring him from possessing any firearms.

Vernon, who is 72, must turn himself in by June 1, according to an order handed down yesterday by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore. He was sentenced to six months in federal prison, followed by two years of probation.

The judge's order is the years-long conclusion to Vernon's latest criminal case, which stemmed from a restraining order filed by his ex-wife and former business partner, Robin Ziel, who starred alongside Vernon in the initial seasons of South Beach Classics. In 2017, New Times published a longform story detailing a history of domestic-abuse allegations against Vernon from Ziel, his children, and his late first wife.

Vernon denied the allegations, but a Broward County judge granted Ziel a permanent restraining order against Vernon in March 2017. That October, PortMiami customs agents found 12 firearms — including one that was stolen — inside the trunk of a car Vernon was trying to ship to Germany, and he was charged with violating the terms of the restraining order.

Vernon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years' probation in April 2018. Four months later, his probation officer discovered two antique rifles inside a rolled-up carpet tucked behind a couch in Vernon's office at the car dealership. Vernon told the officers he had no idea the guns were there.

Vernon's attorneys fought the probation violation, and after Moore ruled this past April that Vernon had indeed violated the terms of his supervised release, the lawyers endeavored to keep Vernon out of prison. In a sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday, they wrote that Vernon has kidney cancer, chronic renal disease, and diabetes, and was recently hospitalized for pneumonia.

"In light of his severely compromised immune system, he is at extremely high risk for developing COVID-19 while in custody," Vernon's attorneys stated.

They also argued that Vernon might have to lay off employees at his car dealership if he were taken into custody.

"Mr. Vernon is the name and face of his business," the attorneys argued. "Imprisonment would have a devastating impact on his business and its employees, especially during these tough economic times."

Moore's order did not describe the judge's decision-making process.

Reached this morning, Vernon's attorney Richard Diaz told New Times he might fight the sentence because Vernon didn't know the guns were in his office.

"We are evaluating whether to appeal," Diaz wrote in an email.

Absent an appeal, Diaz said Vernon will surrender by June 1. If Diaz does file an appeal, the attorney said, he'll seek a bond for his client pending the outcome.
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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb