The untold truth of Storage Wars

On paper, Storage Wars seems like an idea that would've never worked—but it did. Watching people bid on storage containers that have been abandoned by their original owners just sounds strange. But viewers can't get enough, and they want to know more. Let's unlock the secret vault and pore over some Storage Wars facts you may not have known.

Some of it's staged, according to Dave Hester

Storage Wars is another reality show that, allegedly, plays loose with the definition of the word "reality." Cast member Dave Hester approached producers with concerns over the show's authenticity numerous times. In fact, he filed a lawsuit against the A&E network and Original Productions over those concerns in 2012.

Hester's suspicions arose because whenever he won a bid, producers would draw his attention to certain boxes, or unload the storage unit so he would "discover" certain items. Like the time he found a pile of old newspapers…which announced Elvis Presley's death. Or when he found a car underneath a pile of trash—a BMW mini car, to be exact. Hester alleged that the producers were planting valuable goods in the storage units ahead of time — otherwise known as "salting"—to make the show more interesting. And while all of that sounds scandalous enough, Hester's lawsuit didn't stop there.

Hester's lawsuit revealed lots of other secrets, too

On top of the aforementioned "salting" of the units, Hester's lawsuit also claimed the show paid for units on behalf of "weaker cast members who lack both the skill and financial wherewithal to place winning bids." He also alleged that the show depicted the bidders participating in auctions when in reality "no auction is taking place." But perhaps the most scandalous accusation in the suit was Hester's claim that producers paid for "the plastic surgery that one of the female cast members underwent in order to create more 'sex appeal' for the show."

Lastly, Hester's lawsuit revealed his compensation package for what would have been his fourth season, had he not been fired raising his concerns, as the lawsuit also alleges. Hester claims that yelling "Yuuup!" on TV for another year was going to earn him "$25,000 per episode, with a guaranteed minimum of 26 episodes," as well as "a non-accountable expense account of $124,500" and a "$25,000 signing bonus." That adds up to $799,500 to star on one season of a show about buying abandoned storage units. Wow. That's a hefty price to pay for the so-called clearing of one's moral conscience.

A&E somehow came out unscathed

Oddly enough, A&E didn't really deny Hester's accusations. The channel claimed whatever behind-the-scenes actions it took were protected by the First Amendment. Since Storage Wars isn't a game show, the producers can do as they please. A&E claimed Hester's lawsuit was driven by spite, and when all was said and done, Hester was ordered to pay the network's legal fees…but a judge also ruled he could proceed with his wrongful termination suit.

In the end, Hester eventually returned to the show after brokering a non-publicized settlement with A&E. But judging by A&E's reaction to his lawsuit and subsequent courtroom victory, something tells us that sweet compensation package may have taken a hit.

Show creator Thom Beers admits elements of show staging

As the network's response to Hester's lawsuit clearly stated, they have no problem admitting that the show takes liberties with the true nature of the storage unit auction business. In fact, in A&E's motion to strike the suit, they allow that the show "has captured the public's interest by combining elements of competition and business strategy with the mystery of discovering what surprises may be found in an abandoned storage unit." In simpler terms, "We're doing a TV show here, people."

This sentiment was echoed by show creator Thom Beers, who told a panel discussion that not only does the show script approximately 50% of what the characters say, they also sometimes consolidate pieces from several auctions in a single locker in order to keep things interesting. After all, how many viewers would stay glued to the set watching locker after locker being opened to find nothing but the worthless old furniture and garbage they're generally filled with? So, the truth in all of this "staging drama" is if you're looking for reality, look anywhere but reality TV.

Dave Hester also sued Trey Songz

Apparently a huge fan of court, Dave Hester also got into a legal battle with musician Trey Songz over the use of the catch phrase "Yuuup!" According to The New York Post, Hester and Songz each used the phrase both in speech and on merchandise over the years, but the hilarious distinction came via Hester's lawsuit which sought "a court order barring Songz from 'interfering' with his use" of the phrase.

Hester's filing claimed Songz' version "resembles an animal-like or non-human squeal which begins with a distinct 'yeeee' sound before finishing with a squeal-like 'uuuup' sound," which is "distinct and different from Hester's more monosyllabic sounding guttural auction bidding phrase…which is meant to convey the meaning of 'yes.'" Anyone want to guess how hard the judge rolled his or her eyes at that one?

Anyway, as is seemingly Hester's signature legal move, he and Songz eventually settled privately, although the 'Shop' button on Hester's official website now links to a copyright notification for yuuup.com, so something tells us the world hasn't seen the last of Dave Hester's branded merch.

Jarrod Schulz's dark past

Though he may have vaguely mentioned it a few times on the show, veteran bidder Jarrod Schulz never elaborated on his criminal past. Too bad for him that the internet is a thing. Starcasm reported in 2012 that Schulz was arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance, narcotics transportation, and a DUI in 1997, and in 1999, he was busted again for pretty much the same things, only this time he had a parole violation added to his charges. For his crimes, Schulz served a 16-month stretch in a state prison. There's no bidding for the top bunk.

Jarrod owes his fame to his aunt

According to The Orange County Register, Jarrod Schulz was having a rough go staying afloat in the mortgage business when he got his first whiff of storage auctions from his aunt, who at the time was managing a public storage facility. Over time, he and his longtime partner, Brandi Passante, would go on to open up their own second-hand store, Now and Then.

How did they go from there to Storage Wars? It all went down at an auction in Harbor City, California, where he met producers who were planning Storage Wars. The rest, of course, is history.

Mark Balelo's arrest and suicide

In February 2013, storage warrior Mark Balelo was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, but not enough to distribute, meaning it was probably for his own personal use. This had happened before, too: Radar Online reports that in December 2007, he was arrested and charged with three controlled substance felonies. Sadly, Balelo's final arrest seemed to push him over the edge, as he committed suicide just two days later via carbon monoxide poisoning.

Hunter Moore made fake porn of Brandi Passante

Back in 2010, a truly despicable human being named Hunter Moore launched a website called Is Anyone Up? The now-defunct site basically popularized the concept of "revenge porn," which is when users upload naked images and videos of their exes in an attempt to publicly humiliate them. It was pure evil, and Moore and his hacker accomplice Charles Evens were both eventually sentenced to prison for cybercrimes connected to the site.

Unfortunately for Brandi Passante, she fell victim to Moore's grotesquery when, according to The Wrap, he "distributed a pornographic video falsely claiming to feature her over the internet," as well as "published bogus pornographic pictures of her." Passante sued, seeking "$2.5 million in actual and exemplary damages," as well as $5,250 dollars in statutory damages. But the judge in the case reduced her monetary award all the way down to $750, and issued a permanent injunction that required Moore to remove the content, as well as barring him from any further dissemination of it.

Love at first sight

If you've ever wondered how Dan and Laura Dotson have stayed solid all these years, it might have a little to do with their relationship's auspicious beginning. "I found the right man because I am very high-energy," Laura told The Huffington Post while discussing her relationship with Dan, whom she met in 1996. "When I saw him auctioneering all over the place, I thought, 'I'm going to marry that man!' … We just looked at each other, said 'Let's get married, I'll snatch you up.'"

"Four months later, I was pregnant—the whole doggone thing!" she continued. "We work well together. He's taught me how to auction and it's the best thing that's ever happened in my life."

Dan suffered a double brain aneurysm

In 2014, Dan and Laura had the health scare of their lives when Dan suffered a double brain aneurysm in Palm Springs, California. According to TMZ, Dan's condition was so bad when he got to the hospital that he was given only a four to 20 percent chance of survival. Miraculously, Dan's surgery turned out to be a success; he was released from the hospital a little over a week later. As an added bonus: Dan decided to quit smoking after 40 years after his surgery saved his life.

Barry Weiss was the one who gave Jesse James the nazi hat

After Jesse James flamed out in spectacular fashion following his admission that he cheated on Sandra Bullock, the celebrity bad boy then made repeated media appearances explaining his public meltdown. The meltdown included an incident in which a photograph of him wearing a Nazi SS officer's hat and doing a "Sieg Heil" salute leaked online. James later explained multiple interviews (via Starcasm) that the whole thing was a joke, and that the hat was a "gag gift" given to him by his "Jewish godfather," Barry Weiss. James also claimed that the hat was not authentic and was "part of a Hollywood costume."

In his autobiography, American Outlaw, James admitted that he even begged Weiss, who he called "a buddy of my dad's" for support in the aftermath of the scandal, but Weiss declined. "Can't do it," Weiss allegedly told James. "I got a show on A&E this fall—I can't afford to get mixed up in all this crap. Sorry, Jess. You're on your own, kiddo." Ouch.

Pirate's booty

Talk about buried treasure. In 2011, TMZ reported that a storage unit auctioned off by Dan and Laura Dotson unknowingly contained about $500,000 worth of Spanish gold "dating anywhere between the 16th and 19th century." The booty was discovered after the storage unit had been auctioned off. It was reportedly located inside a real pirate's chest that was "at least 200 years old." If that wasn't amazing enough, the report says the winning bidder made off with the gold by paying a little over $1,000 for the storage unit.

A start in produce

Speaking to Wisconsin's Big Cheese on 107.9 FM, Barry Weiss, who left the show in 2013, revealed he worked for 30 years in the wholesale produce business before his rise to Storage Wars fame, saying his business provided produce for cruise ships, restaurants, and hotels. "I've always been collecting antiques on the side," he added, "so that helped fund my passion for collecting weird stuff."

Barry is a medical marijuana user

Barry Weiss is by far the coolest customer on Storage Wars. Not only does he generally exude a lower visible stress level compared to the rest of the bidders, but he's also clearly just in the game for fun, having little to no financial stake in the unknown treasures lurking inside those units. Obviously, a lot of this has to do with the financial independence he gained over the decades of running his successful produce business, but in an interview with Wisconsin's Big Cheese on 107.9 FM, Weiss offered an alternative explanation for his laidback demeanor.

When asked about getting his medical marijuana card, Weiss responded, "Oh god, honestly, uh, it's been about eight years ago. I'm one of the first in this state to get it, but you know I got a bad back, and I've gotta tend to it." Bad back, huh? Yuuup, sounds legit.

Kevin Pew's son was charged with murder

Storage Wars: Miami was the short-lived spinoff of Storage Wars that was barely off the ground when a gruesome tragedy struck one of its stars. At a viewing party for the show that had only premiered days before, cast member Kevin Pew's son Hashim shot and killed family friend Janel Hamilton for seemingly no reason. According to CBS Local 10 News, Pew shot Hamilton without warning, using a stolen .45 caliber handgun, then proceeded to shoot her again while she was on the floor.

The younger Pew was allegedly tackled by his father and brother, who restrained him until police arrived. According to police reports, Hashim allegedly said, "She's dead as (expletive) dawg," while he was being restrained by his shocked family members. According to TMZ, Hashim was charged with first degree murder, but was later found "incompetent to stand trial," and was "remanded into the custody of the Department of Children and Families for treatment in order to 'attain competence to proceed,'" or become competent to stand trial later.

As of this writing, the status of the murder trial is unclear. Storage Wars: Miami never returned for a second season, although it's unclear whether that decision was related to the murder of Janel Hamilton.