Crime

Police, environmental investigators search towing company

Lexington police spent more than 12 hours Thursday searching the property of a local towing company owner who was arrested March 12 on six charges of theft by deception and 32 city ordinance violations.

Lexington police were joined by officials with the Lexington-Fayette County Division of Environmental and Emergency Management at Winchester Towing on Big Run Road.

Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said investigators were executing a search warrant that stems from the arrest of Winchester Towing owner George M. Winchester. Roberts said Lexington police asked the environmental agency for consultation.

"The EPA was there just because somebody's reported to them that we're pouring oil in the ground and antifreeze," Winchester said.

The search began about 1 a.m. Thursday. Roberts said it was too early to say anything else about the search.

Investigators also searched Winchester's home on Sheridan Drive. Winchester said officers woke him up after midnight and handcuffed him on his front lawn.

"They were searching for business papers from anything to do with the business; tickets, tax returns or bank statements," Winchester said.

Winchester was arrested March 12 after police said they had received dozens of complaints that he has overcharged customers for towing and impounding.

Winchester, 48, has been free on $3,470 bond. He entered a not-guilty plea at his arraignment this week. He has said that if he has overcharged customers, it was by mistake. He said customers who have contacted him when an individual tow-truck driver overcharged them have received refunds.

"If they felt they've been wrongfully overcharged, send it in writing to our office. We will make it right," Winchester said.

Winchester was not at the towing company Thursday afternoon. Investigators left about 2 p.m.

Susan Ginter, an employee, said she thinks investigators are "harassing" Winchester.

"He's a good man. He's honest," she said.

Ginter said the fire marshal and the department of health were at the office Wednesday and told them they were "fine and good."

"They're looking at us like we're criminal or idiots; it's frustrating," she said.

Winchester, who said he's recovering from heart surgery in December, said he's worried about the stress the investigation is putting on him.

"I feel like they're really just trying to shut my business all the way down," he said.

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