One of the stars on the hit A&E series, “Storage Wars,” and her partner, discovered a locker filled with multi-million dollar military-grade communications equipment used for intelligence gathering, and the tech gear now at the center of a lawsuit after it was seized by the government.
According to legal documents obtained by The Blast, Nabila Haniss and her partner sued Boeing (the parent company who created the tech) after they claim the government seized the equipment and left them high and dry.
The Locker Discovery
In the lawsuit, Haniss and her partner explain they are "in the business of purchasing personal property at Self Storage lien sales for resale as depicted in the reality show, ‘Storage Wars.”
The documents state, “Self-Storage buyers buy ‘rooms’ of personal property with no more knowledge of the contents than what they can see with a flashlight peering in from the door area."
Haniss was featured on the first few seasons of the hit reality show, and made a name for herself in the auction arena.
Military Intelligence Equipment
In this case, the two buyers purchased a storage locker in Lennox, California on September 6, 2019. During the auction, we're told they viewed the contents and noticed several hard, black cases that appeared to be electronic equipment.
They successfully bid $6,900 to purchase the contents of the unit.
After the purchase, we’re told they inspected the equipment and "realized it was military gear, and the company listed on the packaging was a subsidiary of Boeing, so they immediately contacted Boeing and lawyered up.
According to the lawsuit, the company, Digital Receiver Technology (DRT), "develops hardware and software products for wireless surveillance and tracking equipment for federal government and law enforcement customers.”
According to a statement, issued by Boeing when acquiring the company in 2008, "DRT's digital signal processing products, such as wireless receivers and transceivers, are used by U.S. intelligence customers, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to collect signal intelligence and threat warnings."
At the time, Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems said in a press release, "This acquisition is another move in our strategy to expand our presence in the growing intelligence market...with DRT on our Boeing team, we have expanded our ability to offer military and law enforcement customers improved tools for gathering, analyzing and sharing intelligence."
Bulletproof Vests and Ski Masks
In the court documents, the buyers of the locker claim their lawyer was "subsequently contacted by the US Attorney and law enforcement personnel who explained that they had located property potentially part of an espionage attack."
"The US Attorney provided filed court documents indicating the property was part of a fraud and verbally demanded immediate surrender of the equipment," the documents state.
We're told while the buyers’ attorney negotiated with the government for legal transfer of their ownership of the equipment, officers from the HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) descended on their home with over a dozen agents wearing bulletproof vests and ski masks.
Department of Homeland Security
The HSI is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
The officers demanded the equipment and explained it was part of an ongoing criminal case in Maryland and they had the authority to seize the property.
We’re told the buyers complied with the feds and subsequently "led law enforcement personnel to the equipment and were issued an evidence inventory receipt."
After turning over the items, the two claim they were thanked for their actions of "defending national security."
The Blast has obtained a copy of an indictment out of the District Court of Maryland, where several individuals were charged with various crimes pertaining to the procurement of the intelligence equipment.
In the complaint, officials allege a “member of the conspiracy” established the email domain, “navy-mil.us.” The person then engaged with DRT, "while holding himself out to be a contracting officer of the United States Navy."
Through email, the suspect began the process of soliciting bids to purchase the intelligence equipment. In doing so, according to the complaint, an email was then sent "with an attachment containing a fraudulent purchase order and contract to purchase approximately $3,200,000 in communications equipment."
Shockingly, it worked.
According to the indictment, "The defendants and their co-conspirators initiated email contact with the victim companies in order to convince those companies that they were authorized to make purchase agreements on behalf of the United States government."
It continues, they "leased physical facilities where the fraudulently ordered goods to be delivered/disposed of the fraudulently obtained property to avoid detection without rendering agreed payment to the victims including shipping most received goods to members of the conspiracy located in California for exporting them for sale abroad."
As for who is formally behind the scheme, the documents do not reveal any specifics but say a "member of the conspiracy" was directed "to export to Mexico component items of communications equipment."
A description on DRT's website says the products are featured in "UAVs, planes, helicopters, vehicles, towers, and on walk-tests, submarines, and boats."
The criminal enterprise was also accused of obtaining hundreds of high-end televisions and smartphones, for the total value of all of the item being at least $7,728,596.
The original buyers of the locker have filed the lawsuit to assert their claim as rightful, lawful owners of the equipment. They are asking a Los Angeles judge to force Boeing to negotiate payment back to them for their lawful purchase of the items.
The items currently remain in federal custody as evidence in the criminal case. The case is ongoing and is scheduled to go to trial sometime next year.
We reached out to the US Attorney in Maryland and Homeland Security, who both had no comment.