Huge Scandals That Rocked Pawn Stars

As the "Pawn Stars" Instagram account promised in 2021, "all-new episodes return with some of the strangest, oldest, and rarest items we've ever seen." And that's a tall order for a show that's been running since 2009.

As per Reuters, within one year of its premiere, "Pawn Stars" had become "the most-watched program on ad-supported cable." The show also resulted in History scoring its highest viewing numbers ever. So, it's little surprise the network's been reticent to end its ratings juggernaut — despite the numerous controversies and scandals that have plagued the show.

A degree of strife and ignominy would inevitably play a role whenever you're documenting an open all hours pawnbrokers in Las Vegas, Nevada. Then you have to factor in the larger-than-life Gold & Silver Pawn shop employees, Richard "Old Man" Harrison, his son Rick Harrison, grandson Corey "Big Hoss" Harrison," and Corey's longtime pal, Austin "Chumlee" Russell. Given the cast, the nature of the business, and the decidedly colorful array of customers they deal with on an everyday basis, "Pawn Stars" was always guaranteed to bring the drama, both on and off-camera. However, the amount of drama exceeds all and any expectations. Get the popcorn ready; we're breaking down the huge scandals that rocked Pawn Stars.

The stolen coin collection melting mystery of Pawn Stars

The "Pawn Stars" cast members are no strangers to brushes with the law. In 2014, they found themselves at the center of a legal battle yet again — this time for allegedly melting down a stolen antique coin collection. As per ABC News, in a criminal complaint filed at Clark County Justice Court, David Walters claimed his niece, Jennifer Beckman, stole his costly coin cache in 2013 and then sold it to the Gold & Silver Pawn shop.

Walters claimed the haul Beckman brought to Gold & Silver "netted a total of $12,375" but the aggrieved uncle claimed his collection's actual value to be closer to $50,000. As soon as Walters realized the coins were missing, he immediately shopped his niece to the authorities, but when the cops contacted Gold & Silver Pawn, the coins "were already gone."

"To the best of my knowledge, as the coins are unidentifiable, they may have been melted down," a spokesperson for the store told Fox News. "They may have been sold. They may be in buckets with like coins waiting to be evaluated." The rep went on to dispute Walters' $50k valuation claim. "These coins were worth far less than the gentleman thought they were worth," she said before insisting none of the "Pawn Stars" cast had done anything wrong or illegal.

Rick Harrison has made transphobic remarks

Pawnbrokers deal with a spectrum of people — the strapped for cash, the desperate, the opportunists, the regular Joes just looking to score a bargain. Rick Harrison has encountered them all during his time, and he spilled on his customer "deals and steals" in an interview with NPR.

Harrison shared that the store's busiest time is when there's a big boxing match on. "I don't know what it is about fight fans," he said. "They always bet more than they can afford to lose." Harrison then admitted he regularly acts as an unofficial bail bondsman for a certain sector of his clientele — pimps. "When they get arrested, they will always have someone bring their jewelry down to me," he explained. "I will loan them half of what they paid for it — and that's their bail money."

However, just because he embraces the pimp life doesn't mean the second generation pawnbroker takes a liberal view on all aspects of society. Far from it, in fact. During a CNN interview about his love for Marco Rubio, Harrison's transphobia reared its ugly head. "You have some cities that are saying that if you have a man who feels like he's a woman, he can use the women's restroom," he said. "I guarantee you that will be taken advantage of by some very bad men who want to go into a bathroom where there's young ladies. That will happen if you pass a law like that."

Corey Harrison exposed himself and urinated in a bar

Corey Harrison treated the aptly named Spectators Bar to a performance they'll likely never forget during a booze-fueled Jefferson City night out in 2014. As per RadarOnline, Corey and some biker buddies were riding in a sponsored motorcycle tour when they decided to make a pit stop in the Missouri capital. Harrison had allegedly been partying hard for seven nights straight before hitting the town. "Corey had been with us all week riding and had gotten drunk every night. But this particular night, he was very drunk," an eyewitness claimed. "You could tell when we walked in the bar that it was not gonna go well. He was so sloppy drunk and so obnoxious, you just knew this was heading towards a bad scene."

Perhaps inspired by Missouri's "Show Me State" nickname, after downing "copious amounts of shots," Harrison proceeded to expose himself then publicly urinate. "He got his pants down, peeing on a bar stool, being very proud of it," the source told Radar, claiming one of the staff had to clean up after him with a towel. However, the show wasn't over yet. After posing for fan photos with his pants down, Harrison "picked up a barstool and threw it," resulting in him getting tossed out of the premises.

Corey later apologized for the drunken debacle. "Not my finest moment, obviously," he told E! News. "I sincerely apologize to everyone for my behavior. I am truly sorry."

Accusations of 'wage theft' and exploitation behind the scenes of Pawn Stars

Over its 19 seasons, the "Pawn Stars" cast has made bank. According to History, Rick Harrison is worth an estimated $8 million. Corey "Big Hoss" Harrison and Austin "Chumlee" Russell have accumulated around $5 million each. Not surprisingly, given the show's success, its network has also scored big. As Celebrity Net Worth reported in 2014, History rakes in a cool $3 million per episode.

But, there's no such thing as trickle-down economics in the world of Reality TV. The New York Daily News reported that production companies within the entertainment genre were accused of committing "wage theft" — and the people behind "Pawn Stars" were named and shamed as culprits. Per the outlet, a 2013 survey conducted by The Writers Guild of America East determined scriptwriters and producers "lose $30,000 a year in unpaid wages by working without breaks and overtime pay." When you factor in the other staff working behind the cameras, too, the amount totals a staggering $40 million in lost earnings. "I've known people to work upwards of 100 hours in a given week while shooting," producer David Van Taylor claimed to NY Daily News. "There's no compensation for that additional work."

According to the WGAE, "Pawn Stars" writers and producers "earn a minimum of just $2,136 a week." In contrast, the same positions on scripted shows "pull down $6,712." As per Variety, the disgruntled employees of "Pawn Stars" creators, Leftfield Entertainment, voted to unionize in 2015 — hoping the WGAE's collective-bargaining power would result in more equitable pay and work conditions.

Olivia Black's axing over nude modeling past

"Pawn Stars" cast member Olivia Black had no idea she would become a reality star when she answered a Craigslist ad for a pawnshop overnight worker. "I hadn't actually realized exactly what I had applied for," Black said in her "Pawn Stars" introduction video. "So I was kind of blindsided when I found out everything that was happening."

Her reality TV career was short-lived, as she was cut from "Pawn Stars" after 13 episodes. As she shared in a Reddit AMA, "On December 15, 2012 the National Enquirer ran an article on me, linking to my SuicideGirls photos, and two days later I received a call from the Pawn Stars producers that my services were no longer needed on the show." Black was permitted to carry on working at the store but forbidden from appearing on camera.

However, she quit the job a few months later. "It was very apparent my time there was done," Black told Fox411, who reported she was planning to file a lawsuit against Leftfield Pictures. "Her firing was abrupt and unfortunate, and I think the public deserves more answers," Black's rep said. Despite the furor, she held no ill will towards the pawnbroker staff, who were public in their backing of her. "It's really comforting knowing that the guys at the pawnshop are on my side and supportive of me and really could care less what I choose to do in my personal life," she told RadarOnline.

Chumlee's sex assault investigation, drugs bust, and felony weapons charge

Austin "Chumlee" Russell is definitely one of the shadiest of the "Pawn Stars" cast. As TMZ reported in 2012, he was caught on camera brawling with a dude in Hollywood before fleeing the scene. The victim was left bruised and bleeding on the side of the road, but Chumlee insisted he acted in "self-defense" after the guy "threatened to pull a gun" on him and his pals. "Instinct just took over. [The man] didn't even know I was on TV or anything," he told TMZ. "Just wanted to ride in our car and start problems."

However, there was no excusing the scandal Chumlee was embroiled in four years later. As per the Chicago Tribune, in 2016, Russell landed in jail after being arrested "on suspicion of 20 felonies." The arrest occurred after cops raided Russell's house as part of their investigation into sexual assault accusations that had been made against him. The sexual assault charges were ultimately cleared, but Chumlee faced a new legal nightmare thanks to what was uncovered during the raid.

Per TMZ, cops seized "a huge laundry list of narcotics," including weed, meth, and Xanax. They also discovered traces of cocaine and 12 guns, eight of which were unregistered. Chumlee ultimately copped a plea to escape a prison sentence. As per USA Today, Russell pled "guilty to a felony weapons charge — unlawful possession of a firearm — and to a gross misdemeanor of attempted drug possession."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

What's real and what isn't on Pawn Stars?

The vast majority of reality TV shows are accused of staging scenes and scripting dialogue to help create some extra drama. For years, there's been speculation about how fake "Pawn Stars" may very be — which is kind of ironic as the shop's staff spend so much time determining if customers' items are authentic or not.

Even though the Gold & Silver Pawn shop is an actual business, it's more like a TV set — with off-camera areas packed full of show merchandise. It's also a massive draw for tourists who usually outnumber the customers. As the Gold & Silver Pawn website explains, "due to their hectic schedules and NV privacy laws protecting customers pawning items from photos," the casts makes "impromptu" stops by the store — in other words, they don't exactly pick up regular shifts. As store manager Travis Benton explained to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, if you stop by, you probably shouldn't expect to see the cast at work.

On top of that, all potential sale items that appear on the show are examined ahead of time. Benton told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that items are run by "producers who decide if they are worthy of broadcasting." And as shop employee Rocco Landi shared with the outlet, a "seller is coached on how to act while on camera" and depending on how comfortable they are on camera, "[i]t can take several tries to get it right." Suffice to say, there's a fair amount of producing going on.

The Harrisons were sued for assault by a Vietnam vet

As the "Right This Minute" (via New York Post) reported, Richard and Rick Harrison were accused of choking and assaulting a 62-year-old disabled Vietnam veteran. Daniel Callahan claimed he got into an altercation with the two after taking his Model 96B rifle into the store for an appraisal. Apparently, things quickly took a turn for the worse. Callahan alleged the Harrisons put him "in a chokehold, dragged him through the store, and threw him onto the sidewalk." He also claimed his rifle and walking stick were damaged during the purported incident.

As per "Right This Minute" (via NY Post), Callahan filed a lawsuit against Gold & Silver Pawn shop in April 2012, accusing the Harrisons of physical assault and seeking $20,000 in damages. After news of the lawsuit broke, Rick's son, Corey Harrison, shot down Callahan's story.

Big Hoss told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Rick and Richard "were never in the room with [Callahan]." He alleged it was actually Callahan who was the aggressor. "[He was] absolutely irate with a weapon in his hand," Corey claimed. "He was screaming, 'I want to see the owner.'" He also insisted his staff had done nothing wrong. "I'm going with my employees because if I were out there, I would have done the exact same thing," Corey said. "The way he was acting, it was in our best interests to get him out of there." 

Wait, did A&E steal the Pawn Stars cast?

The "Pawn Stars" cast was embroiled in yet another bitter legal battle in 2012. However, this time around, none of their names were included in the list of defendants. As per The Hollywood Reporter, a top talent agency launched a legal war against History's parent company, A&E Television Networks, alleging the show's stars were stolen from them.

In December 2012, Venture IAB Inc. filed a $5 million lawsuit against A&E, two of History's top execs, Nancy Dubuc and Mary Donahue, and the United Talent Agency's reality TV head honcho, Michael Camacho. In the lawsuit (via THR), Venture "alleges it signed reality stars Richard B. Harrison, Richard K. Harrison, Richard C. Harrison and Austen Russell to written contracts in 2007." Venture claimed the agency's hard work resulted in their clients' landing the gig on what would go on to become "Pawn Stars."

But instead of being thankful to Venture for kickstarting their new career, the freshly minted reality stars evidently dumped the agency less than a year into the show's first season. In the lawsuit, Venture alleged Dubuc and Donahue talked the cast into ditching them in favor of signing with their "friend and agent, Michael Camacho of UTA" instead. The agency demanded a $5 million payout to compensate for the loss of any future commissions they alleged they were entitled to. "As a result of the intentional interference with Agency Agreements, Plaintiff has lost millions of dollars of income," the suit claimed.

Corey Harrison allegedly trashed an RV and generated a doozy of a repair bill

Corey Harrison was back making headlines again in 2021 for all the wrong reasons. As per TMZ, Big Hoss rented an RV for a short vacay in the California desert in 2020. However, according to the vehicle's owner, William Villafana, Harrison apparently failed to return the RV on the agreed date and in one piece.

Villafana claimed Harrison's assistant called a day later to say "they were involved in an accident and were going to have the RV towed back." But, it took another two days before the totally "wrecked" vehicle finally arrived. In addition to the bodywork damage you'd expect from a crash, Villafana alleged the RV's awning had been "ripped off." And that its interior "was littered with empty bottles and eggs, among other things."

According to TMZ, Villafana estimated that the damage would cost up to $30,000 to repair. In addition, Villafana alleged that he had to "cancel ten reservations" because of the vehicle's state. He also claimed that Harrison refused to pay for the damages, forcing him to file a police report. "Corey rented the RV, the pop outs wouldn't go back in, and it was not driveable," Harrison's rep told TMZ. "He had it towed back to Las Vegas and had insurance on it."

Richard Harrison cut his youngest son out of his will

"Pawn Stars" fans were shocked when Richard Harrison died in 2018. Rick Harrison announced his 77-year-old father's death on Instagram. "He will be tremendously missed by our family, the team at Gold & Silver Pawn, and his many fans the world over," the grieving son wrote. "He was my hero, and I was fortunate to get a very cool 'Old Man' as my dad."

Another shocking revelation followed in a second Instagram post that Rick shared later in the day. Alongside an old black and white photo of his father as a young man, smiling, in his Navy uniform, Rick revealed that Richard had "lost his long battle with Parkinson's this morning." The "Pawn Stars" patriarch had chosen to keep his diagnosis of the neurological condition private. Still, the most shocking revelation of them all was yet to come.

When he died, Richard Harrison was a wealthy man. He had ensured that all his affairs were in order before passing. In his will, Harrison listed his wife, JoAnne, and sons, Rick, Christopher, and Joseph, as his heirs. However, as per The Blast, in 2017, Harrison amended his will to exclude his youngest son — but included no explanation or reason for the decision. "I would like to express my love and affection for Christopher Keith Harrison," the updated document states, "however, for purposes of this Will, I have intentionally and with full knowledge failed to provide for him and his issue."

The Nevada vs Florida bitter battle of Pawn Stars name

Long before there was "Pawn Stars," the show in Las Vegas, Nevada, there was Pawn Star pawnshop, a store located in Florida. As per the Tampa Tribune (via Florida Trend), Frank Bishop had settled on his store's name in 2006 because he thought it was cool, albeit "a little provocative." When the History reality show about the day-to-day dealings of the Gold & Silver Pawn shop first aired in July 2009, with pretty much the exact same name, Bishop had "felt vindicated" by his moniker choice.

However, his feelings soon turned to anger and shock after receiving a cease and desist letter from A&E Television Networks' Manhattan legal eagles. According to TMZ, the attorneys claimed the name of Bishop's shop constituted "fraud and trademark infringement." They demanded that he change the store's name immediately or face further legal action.

Bishop refused to kowtow to the mega-network's fancy lawyers' orders, though. Instead, he fired straight back at them with "a strongly-worded letter" from his own attorney, per TMZ. The businessman pointed out that he had legally registered "Pawn Star" as his shop's name a whole three years before the show's TV premiere. So, as far as he was concerned, they could "take a hike." That said, he could be persuaded to submit to their demands if the price was right. "If you want to take something, this is America. Write a check," Bishop's attorney told TMZ.

The Pawn Stars sure have a thing for Subway

A lot of money is paid to production companies in return for stars covertly endorsing brands' products on camera — so it's a win-win for both parties. Product placement is big business, and it's rife in the TV and movie world. But nobody is as scandalously blatant about it as "Pawn Stars."

There's a reason the cast seem to be constantly chowing down on foot-longs, the counter is frequently littered with logo covered wrappers, and scenes often take place inside of a Subway restaurant. As per Trend Chaser, the fast-food giant happens to be "one of the show's biggest sponsors," and there's nothing subtle about the arrangement. Take the time when, as Trend Chaser recounted, Corey Harrison picks up a Subway sandwich and "demonstrates how the auction will unfold later in the day" in the middle of a Subway.

And then there was the time Austin "Chumlee" Russell made a joke about Subway and the convicted sex offender who used to be the brand's spokesperson. According to Screen Rant, while boasting about his own weight loss, Russell quipped about being "the next Jared from Subway." No Chumlee, just, no.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).