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Storage auctions may yield illegal, unusual, immoral or macabre items
By Robert Kyle

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Storage unit auctions may be treasure hunting entertainment on television, but sometimes the contents of those units can be shocking, offensive and illegal. Buyers can be arrested taking unlawful goods home.

That’s what happened to a Southfield, Mich. couple; who inspired by A&E Network’s Storage Wars, wanted to try their luck at bidding on the unknown contents of units at the National Storage Center in Ypsilanti, Mich. in July.

After the 30-year-old man and his fiancée were high bidders on one unit, they dug through boxes looking for buried treasure. Instead they found photos of young girls, a box of underwear and cameras. They notified the storage center, threw some items away, and took some of the material home.

That was their mistake. Following a tip, local police came to their home and arrested the man after finding the sexually suggestive material. Detective Sgt. Thomas Eberts of the Ypsilanti police told a crime reporter at, “He’s not the guy we really wanted,” but he was arrested nevertheless because he had the material in his possession and lied to the police during their questioning.

A background check on the man revealed he had been released from supervised probation in February following convictions of firearm possession during the commission of a felony, receiving a stolen vehicle and marijuana possession. He faces a new charge of violation of probation.

Police later arrested a 53-year-old man who was the delinquent renter of the unit and the original owner of the property.

Winning bidders who discover the illegal material should call the police immediately, advised, a site for the Texas Storage Auction Schedules & News.

“You need to report it right away,” Travis Lane wrote. “Don’t even bring the items out of the unit. Instead, alert the facility manager and call the police, and let the cops come check out the unit’s contents before you mess with them …This also applies to firearms. Guns are carefully regulated, and local authorities will want to check that gun against a database to ensure it hasn’t been used in any crimes …”

Storage units have become convenient depositories to stash the illegal, unusual and unwanted. Last year a unit in Clearwater, Fla., contained a handmade, blue-painted coffin of a 95 year-old woman who relatives thought had been buried 17 years before. The woman’s daughter, described in the Tampa Bay Times as a “classic hoarder,” chose to place her mother in a rental unit instead of a traditional cemetery.

James Bond’s submarine car, a Lotus Espirit, from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me sold at RM Auctions in London Sept. 9 for $967,120. The consignor found it under blankets in 1989 in a Long Island N.Y. storage container auction for which he paid less than $100. It’s believed the movie studio used the car to promote the film and later neglected to pay the storage rent.

Inside a freezer in a Lewiston Maine storage unit was the body of a woman reported missing 28 years earlier. The discovery was made in October 2011 weeks after her former boyfriend died and relatives were cleaning out the unit.

A freezer in a Ventura, Calif., storage unit kept the body of a man missing for two years until it was discovered this summer. In August 2012, a man who bought the contents of a Pensacola, Fla., storage unit found preserved human brains, hearts and lungs. The previous renter had been the city’s medical examiner until 2003.

An alive and squeaking pot-bellied pig was found in June inside a Stettin, Wis. storage unit. The pig was taken to a rescue ranch.

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