All the Behind the Scenes Drama On Storage Wars

By Milo B. Jenkins
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Photo Courtesy: @AETV/Twitter

Storage Wars has upped the ante on antiquing for almost a decade. In each episode, a wild cast of characters searches for treasure by bidding on storage units in lots across America. It's like watching detectives play poker; gambling on what they think could be the next big score.

The crazy cast of Storage Wars provides us with reality TV gold, but rumors of behind-the-scenes drama run rampant. Check out these insider tidbits behind TV’s hidden treasure hunters.

Things Can Get Heated During Bidding

During a bidding shoot in 2015, production came to a halt when three of the biggest stars, Dan, Dave and Laura, got into a physical fight. Dan apparently didn’t see Mary Padian’s bid and ended the bidding war incorrectly. Hester did his best to call out the error, which irritated both Dan and Laura.

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Photo Courtesy: @royalsealentllc/Twitter

Things escalated fast, and Dan and Dave got into an aggressive shoving match. Laura also threw herself into the scuffle, scratching Hester’s face before getting tossed to the ground. Production had to shut down for the day to treat Hester’s cuts.

Robberies Can Be a Price to Pay for Cast Members

Storage Wars stars Rene and Casey Nezhoda are victims of overexposure mixed with a lack of security. Their bids and conquests on the show are clearly documented, so viewers have a good idea of all the goodies they take back to their second-hand shop, Bargain Hunters Thrift Store.

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Photo Courtesy: David Livingston/Getty

That came back to bite them in the end, as their store got robbed of several kinds of merchandise and rare collectibles. Looks like there’s a price to pay for making your wealth and winnings public for the world to see.

Digital Robberies Are Also at Play For the Stars

The Dotsons were also victims of a crime, just not the breaking-and-entering type. In 2012, the dynamic duo were the unfortunate victims of a cyber attack. Computer hackers broke into their bank accounts, stealing several credit card accounts and personal data.

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Photo Courtesy: Albert L. Ortega/Getty

The robbers must have been first-timers because they made a crucial mistake after committing credit card theft. The couple’s credit cards had several sudden charges, alerting the card’s security systems, and their cards were immediately shut down.

Jarrod Schulz’s Sketchy Past

The producers aren't the only shady parts of the program. The cast also has their own skeletons. Storage Wars star Jarrod Schulz may have mentioned his dark past on the show, but what actually happened was a mystery to viewers. That is, of course, until someone ran a quick search on the internet to pick up the details.

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Photo Courtesy: Tommaso Boddi/Getty

Schulz got arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance, narcotics transportation, and a DUI back in 1997. In ‘99 Schulz got locked up for very similar crimes, only this time he got a parole violation added to his charges. Schulz eventually served 16 months in state prison.

The Abandoned Lockers May Not Be Intentionally Abandoned

There is a certain amount of time and failed rent payments that have to take place before a locker can go on sale. Once enough time has passed, the lockers can go up for auction and the cameras can capture the bidding. But do that many people forget about their storage lockers? The most likely reasons why they're abandoned are downright depressing.

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Photo Courtesy: @Cbargainhunters/Twitter

Many people have likely died before letting their family members know to take care of their possessions in storage lockers. Others may have run low on funds to keep their possessions in storage and lost their possessions as a result. This makes for a very bleak angle on the whole premise of the show.

Darrell Sheets Stalked His Way into a Relationship

Sheets was driving down the road when he spotted real estate agent Kimber Wuerfel in another car. They had a brief eye contact exchange before parting, but that wasn't enough for Sheets. Enamored, Sheets followed Wuerfel for miles down the road, hoping to catch her attention.

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Photo Courtesy: Andrew H. Walker/Getty

Miles later, he wrote his number on a piece of paper, drove up beside her, and held it up for her to see. Kimber called, and the pair clicked. They've moved to be closer to one another through the years, but have gone through several breakups and reconciliations. Things seem to be going well for now, so while their beginning is a tad gross and creepy, romance is romance.

A Potential Paper Trail Behind the Bidding

Adding fuel to rumors of foul play on the show, a source went to Radar Online in 2012 to provide more dirt. In the article, the source revealed, "There are invoices, checks, and other documentation where the production company actually compensated cast members for supplying items that got planted in lockers and then discovered on camera".

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Photo Courtesy: @jovan984/Twitter

Some of the provided receipts and reimbursement checks matched items that appeared on the show. The source also revealed production would stop taping when a bidder went through their locker so they could move good items in and reshoot the discovery with the newly added items.

Dave Hester’s Legendary Lawsuit Exposes the Show

Storage Wars' resident bad boy Dave Hester publicly accused the show of being fake back in 2012. In a lawsuit he filed against the network, Hester accused A&E of wrongful termination, unfair business practices and a breach of contract.

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Photo Courtesy: @davethemogul/Twitter

In the lawsuit, Hester claimed he was fired for complaining too much to production about fake storylines on the show. The judge ruled that Hester wasn't specific enough and threw out the case, but also allowed Hester to refile with more specific accusations. He refiled in 2014, the case got settled for an undisclosed amount and Hester soon rejoined the show. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg for all of the insider drama Hester's lawsuit revealed... 

The Stars Make Way More Money Than You Think

While the cast of the show may appear to look far from affluent during bids, the stars bank accounts would beg to differ. According to Hester’s lawsuit, searching through other people’s left behind junk would earn him a staggering $25,000 per episode with a guaranteed minimum of 26 episodes.

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Photo Courtesy: Paul Archuleta/Getty

On top of the pay per episode, Hester would receive "a non-accountable expense account of $124,500" along with a "$25,000 signing bonus". While the compensation packages for the other cast members weren't revealed, it’s safe to say that the cast of Storage Wars won’t be short on money anytime soon.

Inside Dan and Laura Dotson’s Miracle Marriage

The two auctioneers met in '96. Laura found herself drawn to Dan’s fast-talking and high energy personality. "When I saw him auctioneering all over the place, I thought to myself, I’m going to marry that man." They looked at each other, knew they were a perfect match for each other, and got married.

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Photo Courtesy: Tibrina Hobson/Getty

Four months after their marriage, Laura got pregnant, and Dan taught her how to auction. But trouble came in 2014, when Dan had a double brain aneurysm in Palm Springs, California. He was only given a 4-20% chance of living, but miraculously made it through surgery and left the hospital a little over a week later. Laura was by his side the whole time.

Exec Producer Admits to Some Production Meddling

One of the show's executive producers, Thom Beers, came to the show’s defense and backed its authenticity during a live panel discussion. Beers confidently said, "I can honestly tell you that the stuff found in those containers are found in storage containers."

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Photo Courtesy: Bloomberg/Getty

Beers later admitted to combining findings from several lockers into one after shooting upwards of 30 auctions in a day. They do this to make the reveals more entertaining, but it's actually a sign of foul play.

Excuse us while we combine all of our eye-rolls into one big one. This is getting outrageous...

A&E Brought Hester Back for Good Reason

Storage Wars and other shows always have rumors about their legitimacy, but when a cast member files legal documents, that ups the ante on the rumor. Yet, the show brought Hester back after quietly settling with him. Wonder why? We have a theory.

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Photo Courtesy: Icon Sports Wire/Getty

Under Hester’s new contract, he’s likely required to stay loyal to the show. Even though he made his original feelings very clear in court. In his suit, he said, "The defendants would like the public to believe that the series presents an accurate portrayal of the auction process. The truth is that every aspect of the series is fake." Now that he's back on the show, he no longer makes those accusations.

It sounds fishy now, but the lawsuit reveals even more Storage Wars truths

Schulz’s Suspicious Start with Storage Wars

After Schulz served his time, he looked to his family for help. His aunt was managing a public storage facility as Schulz was trying to get back on his feet. His aunt must have shown him something he liked in that facility because it gave him his first taste for antiques.

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Photo Courtesy: Jerod Harris/Getty

He and his partner Brandi Passante soon opened up their own second-hand store, Now and Then. He went to an auction to fill his antique shop when he met the producers who were still in the early stages of building the show. The rest is reality TV history.

A&E Claims the First Amendment Amid Rumors

During Hester's lawsuit, A&E claimed the First Amendment protects the show from any accusations of fake storytelling. The judge agreed and claimed that the reality show is ultimately free speech. This is a major red flag for anyone who loves reality TV shows for their honest storytelling.

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Photo Courtesy: @AETV/Twitter

The ruling from the judge categorizes reality television as "expressive free speech," so there’s no legal expectation for authenticity. This gives producers the right to run the show however they want to keep it entertaining for viewers.

Trust us, the lawsuit gets much weirder...

Producers May Even the Playing Field During Bids

In Hester's lawsuit with A&E, he also claimed the network helped raise the stakes during the bidding process. Hester said the network would sometimes help pay for lockers bid on by less successful and inexperienced members of the cast.

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Photo Courtesy: @AETV/Twitter

The reason? A&E wanted a more even playing field between the bidders. So while the bigger, more established Storage Wars cast members were using their own money to bid on lockers, the others were depending on A&E to keep them in the game.

If you thought the allegations end there, think again...

Brandi Passante’s Pesky Lawsuit

In 2012, Passante found herself in a very precarious position. Actually, it wasn’t her in the precarious position, which was precisely the problem. Controversial x-rated video vender of the early 2010's Hunter Moore claimed to have a personal video of the reality star.

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Photo Courtesy: Tommaso Boddi/Getty

Passante filed a formal complaint to clear her name and take down the fake video. A California judge ruled in favor of Passante, awarding her $750 in damages. The creepy online ogre Moore later served two years in prison for similar dalliances in revealing personal videos online.

Beers Also Confirmed There Are Writers on the Show

During the same interview, Beers confessed the show employs writers for the cast members. This helps in particular during one-on-one interviews with cast members, who could use a little help sharing their stories. So writers will often give them cues to help get them to talk.

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Photo Courtesy: @AETV/Twitter

We get it: Narration of an episode's progress isn't everyone's strong suit. Heck, talking isn't every cast member's strong suit. These aren’t professional actors, and they may not be the brightest in front of a camera. But adding writers to help craft the stars' narratives is yet another sign that the show isn't based on reality.

There's even more lawsuit drama ahead...

Bidders Might Bid on Nothing, Just in Case

The way the bidding process is filmed may also contribute to rumors about the show being fake. In Hester’s lawsuit, he revealed, "While on location filming an auction, Defendants also film footage of the cast members and the public bidding when no actual auction is taking place."

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Photo Courtesy: Original Productions/FremantleMedia/A+E Networks/IMDB

This is a pretty believable allegation. To make the auctions seem more intense, the editors can add unused clips of bidders. For the sake of the television show, this makes sense, but if true, it would also add to the show's total inauthenticity.

What is reality!?! Trust mus, this next claim is by far the strangest...

Possible Plastic Surgery For A Castmember?

Hester’s lawsuit made several allegations, but this one stands out as the most bizarre. He alleged that one of the show’s cast members underwent plastic surgery to create more sex appeal for the show. The weirdest detail in Hester’s lawsuit alleges that the show actually footed the bill for the surgery.

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Photo Courtesy: Dimitrios Kambouris/Twitter

Since the show had so few female cast members at the time, many suspected Hester was referring to Brandi Passante. The idea that producers of a show about abandoned storage lockers would pay for their cast member's plastic surgery sounds outrageous. But again, A&E’s responses to Hester’s allegations are dodgy at best. So who knows!?

Trey Songz is NOT a Fan of Storage Wars

Let’s make one thing clear: Hester makes good reality television. He knows how to push people’s buttons and how to throw outrageous earworms at the viewers. His most notable catchphrase, "YUUUP!" was his golden ticket to cashing in on his reality TV fame with "YUUUP" merchandise.

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Photo Courtesy: Scott Dudelson/Getty

However, singer Trey Songz had been incorporating that sound-byte into his songs for years, and the two got into a legal battle over ownership of the catchphrase. The dueling duo eventually dropped their lawsuits in 2012, and they’re both free to scream the catchphrase as much as they like. The justice system saves the day again.

Barry Weiss’ Business Life Pre Storage Wars Fame

Not every cast member gets their big score on the show. Some cast members, like the self-proclaimed ‘ladies man’ Barry Weiss, didn’t need to be such aggressive bidders. The reason? He and his brother ran his father’s successful fruit and vegetable distribution company until they sold it for millions.

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Photo Courtesy: Vallery Jean/Getty

He appears to have participated in the show primarily to enjoy his love for antiques, fame, and the company of female fans. It explains why he held onto his most unique treasures from his storage finds. He didn't need the money in the first place. He’s currently rolling the dice as the new spokesperson for Sherwood Valley Casino.

One Cast Member’s Son Was Convicted of First Degree Murder

Storage Wars has had several different spin-offs in Miami, Texas, New York and Canada. Storage Wars: Miami, got cut short after 10 episodes in 2015. The reason? Kevin Pew, one of the stars of the show, had a son who committed homicide during the airing of the show.

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Photo Courtesy: @TVGuide/Twitter

In fact, the tragic crime was committed during a family viewing party for the show. The reality personality tackled his 23-year-old son, wrestled the firearm out of his hands and kept him restrained until police arrived. The show was never renewed for a second season following the incident.

A Run-In with The Law Changed One Star’s Perspective on Life

Dave Hester and his gigantic personality was once convicted of a DUI in 2005. As a result, Hester's sentencing included community service at a local Goodwill store. He had to take in the donated goods, organize them, and help sell the items for a profit.

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Photo Courtesy: Tibrina Hobson/Getty

Instead of hating his new job, he found himself fascinated by the practice of buying and selling used goods for a profit. After he completed his community service, he converted his furniture store into a successful thrift shop. The rest is reality TV history.

Hard Truths from Antiques Roadshow

Antiques Roadshow is TV’s original (and more honest) antique appraisal show. Its executive producer Marsha Bemko responded to questions about Storage Wars and said, "Storage Wars is merely an entertainment show that adds more interest in Antiques Roadshows' more honest appraisal process." Ouch.

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Photo Courtesy: The Washington Post/Getty

The appraisers on Antiques Roadshow are generally more honest and accurate because they have no stake in the buying and selling of the items. Bemko adds, "Is it really reasonable to think that someone on ‘Storage Locker Wars’ is going to find a $100,000 item that somebody left in a storage locker?" Extra shade points to Bemko for not even getting the show's name right.

Buying is Really Only Half the Battle

Storage Wars: New York star Mike Braiotta revealed the show doesn't show enough of the entire bidding and appraising process. For example, bidding is one talent, but according to Braiotta, if you’re not connected to the right people to sell the merchandise, then you’re in trouble.

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Photo Courtesy: @nystorageking/Twitter

Braiotta continues, "Otherwise, you’re going to buy a bunch of stuff and have to sit on it. You have to really, truly be a buyer and a seller. It takes a lot of losing to finally learn how to do that. And I still lose. As long as I’ve been doing it, it’s still a gamble."

Mark Balelo’s Unfortunate Public Police Encounter

In early 2013, Storage Wars cast member Balelo found himself arrested for possession of methamphetamine. It was not a large enough quantity to distribute, so authorities suspected he was likely using it himself. This wasn't Balelo's first run-in with the law, but it would be his last.

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Photo Courtesy: @tmz/Twitter

Back in 2007, he was also arrested and charged with three controlled substance felonies. Unfortunately, his latest arrest was too much for the reality star to bear, and Balelo took his own life only two days later via carbon monoxide poisoning.

Bidders Who Aren’t Stars Sometimes Make Out Better Than The Stars

The show’s fans likely miss out on a lot of interesting finds because the show only has airtime space for the cast’s findings. As the show became more popular, there’s been an increase in auction attendance, reportedly up to four times the original amount of bidders.

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Photo Courtesy: @auctionguydan/Twitter

It's a real shame because the non-cast members have come across some very desirable hauls. In Indio, California Laura and Dan Dotson sold a unit for a measly $500 to a non-cast member. That regular Joe went on to discover the had made a staggering total of $7.5 million from that locker. Now THAT would have made great television.

Reality TV Fame is a Family Affair

Barry Weiss is the kind of guy that's made for reality tv. It may even run in the family, because Weiss is the godfather to reality tv star Jesse James. James is the motorcycle customizer who appeared on a series of motorcycle-related reality tv shows on the Discovery Channel.

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Photo Courtesy: Jason LaVeris/Getty

James also was briefly married to Hollywood A-list actress Sandra Bullock, until his infidelities and foul behavior made its way into the media. Weiss actually had a part to play in an infamous photo of his godson — in the image, James is giving a nazi salute in a hat owned by Weiss.

The Show Will Go To Great Lengths to Cut Its Stars’ Pay

Darrell Sheets, or The Gambler, as he’s known on the show, got a very unfortunate surprise in 2015 when he learned his pay would be slashed by 50%. That’s a tough notice to get from your job out of the blue, so you can imagine his frustration.

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Photo Courtesy: Albert L. Ortega/Getty

Sources have reported Sheets planned to leave the show completely so they could make room for the new cast members he thought were incoming. Ultimately, he wound up staying on the show, but the showrunners later cut his son from the payroll.

Improper Pre Appraisal Practices

Not everything found in the show’s storage lockers is actually found in the storage lockers. According to anonymous sources, sometimes producers would have things appraised weeks before they made it on the show. This completely goes against the central idea of Storage Wars.

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Photo Courtesy: Original Productions/FremantleMedia/A+E Networks/IMDb

If true, this idea blows the lid off of the show’s whole concept. Instead of lockers containing forgotten treasures, the show will find items at antique shops to then plant inside the "unopened storage lockers". At this point, you have to wonder what is even remotely authentic about the show.