By David Perel – Executive Vice President/Managing Editor Radar
Hester, one of the show’s best-known personalities who is infamous for his brash “Yuuup” while bidding on storage lockers, charges that the A&E hit show is fake and fired him in retaliation days after he complained about it to network and production company executives.
Radar broke the story that the reality TV show picked up Hester’s contract option and then rescinded it for season four. Now, in the lawsuit filed by Los Angeles top attorney Marty Singer, the show is accused of illegal activity and an ongoing pattern of outrageous behavior in deceiving the public.
The suit contains numerous bombshell claims, including that that the network and producers regularly “salt” lockers with valuable items to add drama to the show, rig the bidding and even paid for a female cast member’s plastic surgery to add sex appeal!
In the five-count multi-million dollar lawsuit filed in California, Hester makes detailed and explosive allegations against the show, which the network has previously defended as 100% real and not staged.
He also says that cast members confronted executives at an in-person meeting this year and expressed theirconcern over the show being rigged.
Hester says was fired days after meeting with executives and subsequently asking to be indemnified by the show for any third party claims regarding “the authenticity of the auction process and the Series.”
In a suit that is sure to cause ripples through the show and the network, Hester charges:
- Producers staged entire units and enlisted the cooperation of owners of storage facilities to do so.
- The show pays for storage lockers for “weaker” cast members as part of the manipulation
- The show plants items in lockers after having them appraised weeks in advance
- The show obtains items to be placed in the units from a business regularly featured on air
In addition, Hester charges that interviews with cast members are scripted and scenes of biding are faked to the extent that there are no auctions taking place while cast members and members of the public are shown bidding.
But perhaps the suit’s biggest bombshell is the charge that cast members, along with Hester, met with executives this year and expressed their concerns about the show being faked.
“The truth is that Defendants regularly salt or plant the storage lockers that are the subject of the auctions portrayed on the Series with valuable or unusual items to create drama and suspense for the show,” the suit alleges.
On Sept. 6, Hester and some other cast members met with Neil Cohen, A&E’s senior vice president, talent & production to express their concerns about this alleged practice. In the meeting Hester complained “that he believed that it was illegal for Defendants to continue to salt the storage units,” the suit alleges. “The other cast members present agreed with Hester that Defendants’ conduct was inappropriate and possibly illegal.”
After that meeting Hester and the rest of cast met with Cohen, Jeff Bumgarner, the series producer, Ernest Avila, the production company’s executive vice president of business and legal affairs. The issue of “salting” units again was discussed and according to the suit, “Bumgarner got angry and didn’t want to hear anything more about salting units. Cohen admitted he was aware of the salting issue but didn’t know the extent, as described by Hester. Avila identified two AETN executive who he indicated knew the scope of the salting issue and who had been aware that the storage units were salted from the beginning of the series.”
The end for Hester began on Sept. 18 when his entertainment attorney Stephen Barnes sent a letter to Avila requesting the star be indemnified by the show for any third party claims regarding “the authenticity of the auction process and the Series.”
According to the suit, “Defendants response to this request was to fire Hester from the Series.” Avila sent Hester a letter on October 1 rescinding exercise of his option for Cycle 4. “Avila’s letter cited Barnes Sept. 12 letter in which ‘Barnes had requested, among other things, that Defendants indemnify Hester,’” the suit charges.
Hester goes on to detail how the show was fixed from the beginning. He claims producers asked him to find and place his own valuable items in the lockers in Season One. Hester agreed atfirst and then complained.
The result, he charges in court, is that the other contestants’ lockers were salted by the producers, giving those contestants a competitive advantage. Hester again complained.
The show amped up its outrageous conduct in season three, the suit contends, sparking more concern from Hester.
Now he is seeking millions for breach of contract, wrongful termination in violation of public policy and three other counts.
An A&E spokesperson told Radar: “We do not know about a lawsuit being filed and we do not comment on pending or threatened litigation.”
But the network is clearly lagging in terms of keeping up with events because the suit was filed Tuesday morning in Los Angeles Superior Court and RadarOnline has a copy.