|By Eric C. Rodenberg
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — One of the highest rated “reality” shows on television – Storage Wars – is nothing more than a fraud, according to one of the programrsquo;s stars, David Hester.
Hester, one of the best-known personalities on the show that features bidding on abandoned storage units filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Superior Court Dec. 11, alleging that he was fired after complaining to show executives that the show was rigged.
Hester – who goes by the moniker, “The Mogul” on Storage Wars – is the brash opportunist who bids with a loud, braying “Yuuuuuup.” On the A&E website, Hester is touted as “a big fish in the game,” who “of all the characters … has the largest operation with the largest overhead.”
Hollywood attorney Martin D. Singer, once identified as a “Guard Dog to the Stars” by the New York Times, filed the lawsuit in Hesterrsquo;s behalf. Original Productions, which produces Storage Wars, and A&E Television Network (AETN) are named as the defendants. The show, in its fourth season, has the highest rating of any A&E program, and is one of the most popular show on television.
The lawsuit maintains that A&E Television “has committed a fraud on the public and its television audience in violation of the Communications Act of 1934, which makes it illegal for broadcasters to rig a contest of intellectual skill with the intent to deceive the public.
“The truth, however, is that nearly every aspect of the Series is faked, even down to the plastic surgery that one of the female cast members underwent in order to create more rsquo;sex appealrsquo; for the show, the cost of which was paid for by Original (Productions), the company that produced the show,” the lawsuit reads.
In the lawsuit, Hester claims that show producers “salted” some of the storage units with valuable or unusual items, coached winning bidders while they were going through the won units for dramatic effect, filmed faked bidding, and financially backed “weaker” cast members.
Good luck by the bidders? Not a chance, according to Hesterrsquo;s lawsuit.
“Despite the fact that the odds of an abandoned storage unit containing anything of value are very slim, many viewers have questioned whether the valuable items are planted in the units for dramatic effect. In response AETN issued the following press release: rsquo;There is no staging involved. The items uncovered in the storage units are the actual items featured on the show.rsquo; That is a lie,” Hester claims.
Neither Original Productions nor AETN responded to questions from AntiqueWeek.
In the show, competition is dramatized while portraying competing treasure hunters bidding on abandoned storage units in the hope of finding forgotten valuables, which they resell for profit.
The series follows Hester and other cast members as they compete against one another to bid in public auctions for the contents of abandoned storage lockers. Prior to each auction, Hester and other perspective bidders are permitted only a brief glimpse inside the storage units, after which they compete against one another to place the winning bid in an auction of the contents of the locker. The audience then watches in suspense as the winning bidder sifts through the contents of the unit he or she has acquired to determine whether it contains any “hidden treasure” or whether the winning bidder has just won a locker full of junk with no value.
In the lawsuit, Hester claims that he was approached by the Storage Wars producers during the first year of the series and was asked to “plant” valuable items in the storage units. “Although Hester initially agreed to do so,” according to the lawsuit, “he soon realized that he did not want to participate in this fraudulent conduct.”
Hester alleges he complained to Dolph Scott, a co-executive producer of the series and, as a result, was not asked again to plant items in the units.
However, the lawsuit maintains that Hester again complained to Scott during the second series of filming about the units being “salted.” He was reportedly told by Scott that the production staff no longer salted storage units acquired by Hester, but continued to salt units purchased by other cast members. “In doing so, Defendants manipulated the outcome of the auctions and made it appear that the other cast members were more skillful bidders since they routinely purchased lockers containing valuable items and Hester did not,” the lawsuit claims.
After the first year of filming Storage Wars, which premiered in 2010, producers began to exercise full control over the storage units, including using its own locks on storage units after they sold, according to the lawsuit. “ … it was obvious that Defendants were continuing to salt the storage units, including those purchased by Hester,” the lawsuit alleges. “When Hester would examine the contents of storage lockers he acquired, Originalrsquo;s production staff would prod him to rsquo;check outrsquo; certain boxes or direct him to unload his unit in such a way that he would be certain to rsquo;discoverrsquo; particular items that Defendants clearly knew had been planted in the unit.”
“By one example, in one episode a pile of old newspapers announcing the death of Elvis Presley was discovered,” the lawsuit reads. “In another episode, a BMW mini car was found buried under a pile of trash.”
Hester is asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, arguing that the showrsquo;s conduct “warrants the imposition of punitive damages” in order to punish the defendants and preventing them from taking similar actions with future programs.