Dan Dotson, the familiar face of the A&E reality show "Storage Wars," was standing at a charity event in Indio on Nov. 1 when a quiet woman approached him.
She had a story to tell the auctioneer.
Her friend bought a storage unit from Dotson the month before in Southern California — and found inside that shed was $7.5 million in cash. It came as a surprise to the buyer and the auctioneer.
“It was an amazing story,” Dotson told The Desert Sun as he recalled the exchange. “She said, ‘I just gotta tell you this story, my husband works for a guy that bought a unit from you and there was a safe in there.'”
Dotson tried to hear the woman over the din of the event — the Cars, Stars and Rock 'N Roll charity auction in Indio, the city known for hosting the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
But he did catch the peak of the story: “She says, ‘there was a safe in the unit. The first guy couldn’t open it, so they called a second guy and there was $7.5 million,’ and I say ‘$7.5 million?’ and she says, ‘Cash.’”
Dotson declined to share the woman’s name, the city the unit was sold in or the name of the new owner of the unit, citing privacy and safety concerns. That auction was not recorded for the popular A&E series.
Dotson said when the original owners of the storage unit found out that their storage locker sold, they had their attorney contact the new owner to negotiate a deal to reclaim the money. The attorney originally offered the new unit owner $600,000 of the $7.5 million, but they eventually agreed to keep $1.2 million and return the rest.
Dotson and his wife Laura recounted the story in a YouTube video they posted on Nov. 7. On the video, Laura Dotson asks viewers what they would have done with the money.
“I would feel so worried,” she said. “I feel like it wouldn’t be clean money.”
Laura Dotson goes on to say that the history of a storage unit is sometimes a mystery — sometimes the owner moves away, forgets to keep paying the rent, ends up in jail or even passes away.
“Who knows, but this happens all the time and it’s the modern-day treasure hunt,” she said.
While Dan and Laura Dotson are known as featured auctioneers on "Storage Wars," this sale was just a routine sale through their Calimesa-based company American Auctioneers in California.
But Dan Dotson said he’ll be telling this story for the next 20 years. While his work has led to buyers finding many great treasures, no unit has ever turned up this much cash in his experience.
Follow Nicole Hayden on Twitter: @Nicole_A_Hayden