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What We Know About Pawn Stars' Chumlee

Ahh, Chum. Austin "Chumlee" Russell plays the hapless comic relief on "Pawn Stars" and he plays it quite well, as long as you have no problem with some pretty repetitive "plot" points. Unfortunately, the real Chumlee is not as personable outside the world of the high-intensity pawn store TV show. It's one thing to hold down a cash register at the business of a family friend, even if you do it poorly and often overpay for items that you just think are cool while you're constantly distracted by your candy shop side business. Drugs, guns, and alleged sexual assault are other things entirely. 

Chumlee was arrested in early 2016 on some serious charges, and he may have benefited from having it all happen before the #MeToo movement took off. Here's what we know about that case, and everything else we know about the guy we thought was a lovable goofball until he got busted.

His arrest stemmed from a sexual assault charge

On March 11, 2016, the Associated Press (via USA Today) reported that earlier that week, Chumlee of "Pawn Stars" — under his government name of Austin Lee Russell — was arrested following the discovery of regulated and contraband material at his home in Southwest Las Vegas. Authorities uncovered methamphetamines, marijuana, and a firearm while carrying out a search warrant issued as part of an investigation into a sexual assault allegation concerning the reality TV star.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police booked Chumlee on a total of 19 drug charges and a single weapons charge while the investigation into the sexual assault complaint filed by a woman in the area remained open. After posting $62,000 bail, Chumlee was released. At his scheduled day in court in May of 2016, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Russell accepted a deal in which he'd plead guilty to only the felony weapons charge. Provided he complete three years of probation, any other charges would be reduced to misdemeanors, while no sexual assault charges were ever formally filed.

The police found a lot of contraband in his house

Much of what the cops turned up at Chumlee's house falls under the standard celebrity-bust stuff (including the existence of what was only referred to as a "Chum Chum Room" with a stripper pole in his house), but other details hint at a darker side to this story. According to the police report, that aforementioned single gun turned out to be a dozen of them, some loaded, and only four were registered to Russell. More troublingly, the report (via US Weekly) adds that the drugs and paraphernalia were found in quantities "commonly found with persons who package and sell controlled substances," which is a fancy way of accusing him of potentially being a dealer.

He took a plea deal

In May 2016, Chumlee took a plea deal that reduced his charges down to "a felony weapons charge—unlawful possession of a firearm" and "gross misdemeanor of attempted drug possession," according to USA Today. He also agreed to "three years' probation and counseling," with the possibility of facing two to five years in prison if he violates the terms.

Chumlee's lawyer, David Chesnoff, confirmed to USA Today that no charges were ever filed in the sex assault case that sparked the investigation that led to the drug and gun charges, and that his client "had been cleared."

Chumlee also had to forfeit the guns that were seized, and of course, the drugs as well. It was a major bullet dodged for the "Pawn Stars" fan favorite, especially considering he was able to keep his TV job after it all.

The Pawn Stars stuck by him

Even while it was unclear whether Discovery and the History Channel would continue working with Chumlee, his buddies at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop stuck by his side. "We don't have details yet but are here to help Chumlee however we can," Rick Harrison, Russell's costar and owner of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, told Fox 411.

Chumlee's best bud and fellow "Pawn Stars" costar Corey Harrison took a more indirect approach, instead choosing to post quotes about friendship and loyalty on Instagram, as well as this one: "Don't believe everything you hear. There are always three sides to a story, yours, theirs, and the truth." He also posted a handy reminder about Nevada state law as it applies to gun registration, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Subtle, no?

He's nicknamed after a cartoon

Russell got the nickname "Chumlee" when he was 12 years old because of his resemblance to Chumley the walrus from the cartoon "Tennessee Tuxedo." Thankfully, the real life Chumlee has a good sense of humor about himself and the way he was assigned the handle, which he said was by a childhood friend's dad. "He made a joke and it kind of stuck," Chumlee said, adding, "I started introducing myself as Chumlee about a year or two later, and I finally said, 'Well, let's see who this Chumlee character is.' Lo and behold, it was the dimwitted sidekick." D'oh.

He's a DJ on the side

Reality TV fame can be pretty fickle, so it's perfectly understandable that in addition to licensing out his own merchandise, Chumlee has started looking into a potential second career in music. He attended DJ school and spent some time working the turntables at home before booking his first public appearance, where he made headlines for requesting "Girl Scout cookies and hot chicks" on his rider, according to TMZ. He's also talked about getting deeper into the music business by acting as a talent scout for Las Vegas artists.

He's a pretty shrewd businessman

Chumlee's own company sells his own merch and personal appearances, and he gets a lot of offers because he's the series' breakout character. According to Deadline, he was the first of the "Pawn Stars" personalities to brand himself, which resulted in a nice little merchandise business that Rick Harrison bought into so he could share in the profits by selling the Chumlee branded t-shirts and other paraphernalia right on the pawn shop floor.

He and the Harrisons go way back

When Chumlee was a kid, he became besties with Corey "Big Hoss" Harrison, whose father, Rick Harrison, and grandfather, the late Richard "Old Man" Harrison, opened the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in 1989. Having hung around the shop as kids, Chumlee and Corey eventually became employees. Speaking with Las Vegas Now, Chumlee said he'd been working behind the glass display cases for five years before the show ever came about, and that he wasn't even sure he would get cast on it.

"There was 10 other employees in the shop and they were looking for a fourth person to put in the show," he recalled. "I thought to myself, well, I've known these guys my whole life. We have good camaraderie, and I'm just going to be funny and joke with them like we would normally do, and not get nervous in front of the cameras, and it kind of worked out." Several highly successful years as reality TV superstars and millions of dollars later, yeah, we'd say it worked out just fine.

He's dealt with tragedy

Chumlee's father passed away of pancreatic cancer two weeks before "Pawn Stars" premiered in 2009. When asked if there's anything he'd personally never pawn off himself, he told Vegas Seven, "I have a few possessions that I would never pawn. Those would be the few items that my father [a master woodsman] has made. My father passed away two weeks before the show [debuted] on TV. I could never sell or pawn that, but I could pretty much sell or pawn anything else."

His weight has fluctuated

After Chumlee's father's death, he took his health much more seriously. Also inspired by Big Hoss' transformation into Not-So Big Hoss, Chumlee lost over 100 pounds by working out and cutting out "all processed foods except for mustard," according to People. "Now, 'everything in moderation' is my motto," he said in 2014.

Unfortunately, he'd gained 50 pounds back by 2016, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he "got tired of eating chicken and vegetables, six times a day, out of Tupperware." According to People, Chumlee estimates that he reached his highest number on the scale in early 2019 when he weighed 350 pounds, and that he'd cycled back and forth between losing and gaining about 100 pounds. As of October 2021, Chumlee's weight stabilized at about 190 pounds following gastric sleeve surgery at a Las Vegas bariatric clinic. Doctors remove as much as 80% of a patient's stomach, per UCLA Health, resulting in drastically reduced hunger and appetite, leading to rapid weight loss.

He made a huge misstep in the pawn business once

Harrison told The Huffington Post that Chumlee's biggest error in pawning happened before the show ever filmed. "After someone came in to pawn a stand-up bass, Chumlee leaned it against a shelf and walked away. The bass fell and shattered into pieces," the Huffington Post reports. "Chumlee put the pieces into a box, and put the pawn number on the box. When the man came to pick it up, he opened the box and saw his bass in pieces." "He started freaking out," Corey says. "He pawned it for $700, and it wound up costing us $20,000 because it turned out to be rare."

He's a sneakerhead

In a 2011 episode of "Pawn Stars," Chumlee admitted to having more than 40 pairs of Jordans alone. He's also a fan of Vans and Adidas. He has more than 200 pairs of shoes total, according to Complex, who took the star shopping for even more to add to his illustrious collection.

He's not too comfortable with fame

Despite being the fan favorite, Chumlee admits he's not great at interacting with "Pawn Stars" fans. "I'm honestly probably the least approachable out of all of us in reality," he admitted to Las Vegas Sun News. "I don't do well in conversation...I'm just very quiet and reserved for the most part. I've opened up a lot since the show [premiered], but Corey and Rick, they talk a lot more than I do."

Jon Bon Jovi is a fan

"We went to his meet n' greet to meet his kids because they wanted a picture with us," Chumlee told The Huffington Post. "He gave us front row tickets. That was pretty cool. When does Bon Jovi personally invite you to his show?"

He opened a candy store

On top of his thriving merch business and lucrative reality TV gig, Chumlee has also become a bona fide business owner of a surprising type of store. In May 2017, he opened Chumlee's Candy on the Boulevard, located conveniently "across the plaza from the business that made him famous," according to 3 News Las Vegas. In a guest column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Chumlee said he started the candy biz with his brother, Sage, and the two of them will run the day-to-day operations.

That's great news for the thousands of tourists who visit Gold & Silver Pawn every day just trying to catch a glimpse of one of the Pawn Stars. Now all they have to do is just walk across the street for a pound of gummy worms and there's a solid chance Chumlee will be swiping their credit card.

But it got off to a sour start

When Chumlee wanted to start promoting his store or selling his candy online, he had to get creative with the name of his website. That's because the domain names chumleescandy.com and chumleescandyontheblvd.com were already taken, according to TMZ. Chumlee threatened the so-called "cyber-squatter," Patrick Keyes, who allegedly admitted to purchasing the domains shortly after hearing the news that the "Pawn Stars" regular planned to open the store. Chumlee had to consider either ponying up some serious dough or changing the name of the store to something equally catchy, like Pez Stars. On second thought, that would've been a terrible idea.

He's a giant UNLV Rebels fan

Though his interest in UNLV basketball started out as the result of the collegiate team being the only real game in town, Chumlee's love for the Runnin' Rebels has grown into full-blown fandom. In 2012, he became a season ticket holder; by 2014, he felt comfortable enough as a diehard to do a little sideline coaching in an interview with Vegas Seven. "I love the Rebels. Those boys have a lot of talent. It's just an unfortunate situation that [they] seem to lack direction out there," Chumlee said, adding, "I'm not pointing any fingers, and I don't know what the problem is, but we gotta get that talent to work together."

Regardless of the team's performance, Chumlee's devotion does not waver. "I'll always root for the boys whether they're winning or losing. I try to stay till the end of every game. I'm a huge Rebels fan," he said, proudly stating, "I have Rebel chucks [Chuck Taylor sneakers], the Walmart version—only pair of shoes I ever bought in Walmart."

Chumlee got married (or did he?)

Good news for Austin "Chumlee" Russell, Las Vegas pawn shop mainstay and crowd favorite co-star of the reality TV series "Pawn Stars" — he found love and got married. "We were friends for a year or two before we were even a couple, and got together right around the beginning of 2016," Chumlee told the Las Vegas Review-Journal of Olivia Rademann — a UNLV student, photographer, and free diver, according to her Instagram account. In 2018, Chumlee proposed during a trip to Hawaii. In March of 2019, he staged the first step of a double wedding celebration with a party at a downtown Las Vegas hotel. The actual wedding ceremony was set to occur the following May in Hawaii.

It's unclear if the wedding between Chumlee and Rademann ever took place. Even if it did, the pair seem to have split up. Chumlee's Instagram page bears no trace of Rademann, while Rademann also apparently scrubbed her Instagram account of photos of her former fiancé, if not husband. She's moved on, too — some 2022 posts show her getting close with a different guy, reportedly professional poker player Jake Schindler, according to Distractify.

He's really into trading Pokemon cards

Chumlee became a famous television star on "Pawn Stars" just by doing his regular job at a Las Vegas pawn shop, keeping an eye out for collectibles and negotiating fair prices for those cultural artifacts. It makes sense that off the clock and off the air, Austin "Chumlee" Russell would have a keen interest in a highly sought after, widely collected and traded item. The reality TV star is an avid collector of gaming and sports cards, including those associated with "Kryptik," Ultimate Fighting Championship, and most of all, Pokémon. Apart from his immensely popular main Instagram account, Chumlee maintains a separate page just for his Pokémon hobby.

He routinely posts videos of himself tearing into packs in search of rare and valuable cards to add to his substantial collection, which contains a few gems. "I think I probably have a $600 Charizard Rainbow, which is a rare Charizard," Chumlee told Looper in 2021. Chumlee's enjoyment of Pokémon extends to the virtual sphere as well — he's pretty good at the "Pokémon GO" mobile game. "I've been playing that for quite a few years, and I got a pretty high level on there," he said.

He had a Kickstarter for his own video game

A child of the 1980s and early 1990s, Austin "Chumlee" Russell grew up in a time when the Nintendo Entertainment System was the dominant video game system and a touchstone of youth culture. Surpassed by increasingly sophisticated systems, the NES ended production in 1995, according to the Washington Post, but Chumlee still holds the platform dear. Early in the 2020s, he got to work on the independently produced and privately funded "Chumlee's Adventure: The Quest for Pinky" — a cartridge-based game made solely and specifically for the NES.

"I just wanted to do an old runoff of the 'Kung Fu' game for Nintendo, and kind of go with the trend that vintage games are getting really big," Chumlee told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It crosses over into the world of 'Pawn Stars,' it's cool and fun and nostalgic." He opened a Kickstarter project through his Instagram page to fund the creation of the game, along with producing the cartridge itself, game manuals, and boxes. The game stars Pinky, an 8-bit version of Mr. Piffles, Chumlee's Pomeranian dog who appeared on "Pawn Stars."

He makes money with his photography

After obtaining fame and fortune in front of the cameras as a breakout star of the enduring reality TV series "Pawn Stars," Chumlee took a shot at making a name for himself, and a living, on the other side of the lens. The website for the World Famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, made famous on "Pawn Stars," offers prints of Chumlee's original photography for sale. As of February 2023, four works of art were on offer, with one completely sold out. "Desert Wasteland" depicts a rusted, graffiti-covered abandoned building element in the sands outside Las Vegas. "All the Lights" shows the Vegas skyline all lit up at night. "A New Dawn" captures sunrise over the Nevada desert. "Horse Shoe Bend" offers an aerial view of that natural formation surrounded by water. The latter is unavailable, as it's sold out. The other Chumlee original photos cost $650 each.