Car shop owner refutes cocaine bust account

MANATEE — Whitfield car shop owner Wayne Fletcher on Tuesday adamantly denied authorities’ claims they arrested an accused drug dealer and seized more than three kilograms of cocaine at his shop last week.

And Fletcher was right, as Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigators acknowledged the agency reported the wrong location where detectives arrested Jesus “Jesse” Guzman, 32, on federal cocaine trafficking charges.

Also, during a raid of Fletcher’s shop, detectives found a marijuana joint, not large amounts of cocaine as originally reported, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Dennis Romano. No arrests were made at the shop.

“It blew my mind when I saw that,” said Fletcher. “I have worked to build this place up. People come to me to work on their cars, but I don’t have anything to do with what they do in their lives.”

Sheriff’s detectives raided Fletcher’s shop, Classic Customs, 2027 Whitfield Drive, after hearing Guzman and others discuss the shop while they were under investigation by federal and local authorities, Romano said.

Romano said Fletcher’s shop came up so much throughout the investigation that detectives believed Fletcher may have been involved with Guzman. A couple of Guzman’s cars were seized during the raid at Fletcher’s shop.

Detectives are still investigating whether they were purchased with drug money, Romano said.

But it was a simultaneous raid by sheriff’s detectives and DEA agents on Guzman’s home in the 5500 block of Wingate Road in Myakka City, which netted more than three kilograms of cocaine and weapons. Guzman was later arrested at his parents’ house in Palmetto, Romano said.

Guzman’s arrest was part of a two-year investigation by federal and local authorities into a drug ring in Manatee and Sarasota counties. The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Monday that Guzman, believed to be the leader of the ring, and 11 others had been indicted on federal weapons and drug charges. “He was pretty significant,” Romano said of Guzman. Fletcher told the Bradenton Herald on Tuesday he knew Guzman and worked on many of his cars, but had no knowledge of the accusations against him. “I can’t control what someone does. His money was green so I did work on his cars,” Fletcher said. Fletcher said sheriff’s detectives treated him well during the raid.

“I have no problem with what they did that day,” he said. “I respect they have a job to do. I just want it known that he was not arrested here and I don’t know anything about any cocaine.”