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Indiana man upset over storage facility mix-up

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LOGANSPORT, Ind. – A northern Indiana man is frustrated and asking for a storage facility for a refund.

John Brooke was planning to move. He packed up all of his belongings and put them into a 10×10 storage unit. Documents show on July 7, 2020, Brooke signed a contract and paid $284 in cash for the unit. He said his storage lease was supposed to run through December.

On July 24, Brooke said he returned to the storage unit. He immediately noticed his lock was missing and there was nothing inside.

“The unit was open and all the stuff was gone,” he said. “I immediately called the police and just raised seven layers of hell. I was mad.”

A police report shows an officer responded to the storage facility.

“Him and I both looked through the unit and noticed a few things. There was no forced entry. Nothing was drug out of there. There were no drag marks. There were no dents. Someone took their time to take everything out because I had it stacked to the ceiling,” Brooke explained.

The police report narrative later noted “the caller later found out his items were not stolen.” Instead, Brooke alleges something else happened.

“I obviously blame the storage unit,” he told CBS4. “They had unlocked our unit and auctioned it off because they believed we were delinquent.”

Brooke says that was not the case. He claims the storage facility was confused since another unit nearby was delinquent.

“At no point should they have been in our unit,” he said.

Brooke met with the man who allegedly bought his unit and the storage facility manager and recorded that confrontation. While we cannot share it publicly, CBS4 listened to the audio and heard a woman say multiple times that “this was a terrible mistake” and “I am just sick about it.” The alleged buyer then offered to sort out some of Brooke’s belongings and keep those items at the facility.

Brooke claims the buyer still has some of his stuff, but not all of it.

“We lost tons of personal paperwork. Legal paperwork, medical paperwork, social security cards, birth certificates, I lost my passport!”

Brooke said he had a sentimental rock collection in the unit, La-Z-Boy couches and a custom-built bar. He claims his insurance company valued the contents of the home at $220,000.

“I feel like I have been robbed.”

Brooke showed CBS4 a check that the storage facility manager reportedly wrote him in the amount of $284. At the bottom, the check specifies that the money is a “refund for storage.”

Brooke wants more than that.

“Everything we owned was in that storage unit,” he said. “The flack and really, just – I don’t know – the hard time I’m getting is from the storage people because they don’t want to value our stuff correctly.”

Brooke said he later received a letter from the storage center. It read:

This communication to verify that we still have your possessions in storage…”

“We will hold these items at no charge until August 30th, 2020. If you are in agreement to the terms of this communication, please pick up your items by this date. If you are not in agreement, please send written communication…”

Brooke said he didn’t plan on picking up any of the items because he didn’t want to muddy the waters. He has already contacted several attorneys and his insurance company about the issue.

“There should have been checks and balances in place,” Brooke said. “Just put yourself in our shoes. How bad would that be if someone did this to you? And dear God, don’t do it to anyone else.”

He recommends that anyone else who leases a storage unit catalog all their possessions.

“Take pictures or if you can have someone video tape you putting it into storage, that will cover you when it comes to bringing in your insurance or law enforcement. We’ve had to pound the pavement, talk to people, we’ve had to learn from this,” he said.

CBS4 reached out to the alleged buyer for clarification about what happened, but the man said he did not want to comment.

Our investigative team also tried reaching the storage facility manager. She refused to comment and abruptly hung up. The listed owner, at first, didn’t want to comment either. He then called back the day this story was about to air. He insisted he has Brooke’s belongings but said that Brooke has failed to communicate with him or pick anything up.

“I’m trying to do everything on my end,” the owner said. “We made a mistake and fully admitted that to him. We’re trying to make it right and he won’t cooperate.”

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