A real treasure
Storage pirate finds possessions of Grammy-winning jazz performer
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Jan 14, 2018 | 1666 views | 0 0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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When Steven Monetti peered into the storage unit last month, he sensed something special about it.

Monetti, of North Bergen, makes his living as what some people call “a storage pirate.” He is often called “The Gambler” because he takes a lot of chances on what he bids on.

“Bidding on a storage unit is always a gamble,” he said. “You can make a lot of money or lose your shirt.”

Like other storage pirates, he bids on the contents of storage units whose rents are overdue.

Under state law, the storage facility has the legal right to sell off the contents if fees haven’t been paid for 45 days. This is generally done by auction.

Storage companies usually wait and give a renter up to two months to make due or to make other arrangements before authorizing a sale.

In these bidding wars, the storage owner opens the door to the unit, and people offer bids based on what they see. No one can touch anything.

“It’s a gamble that there might be something of value inside,” said Monetti.

In this case, he saw an autographed photo of Muhummad Ali and decided to bid high. He won, discovering moments later that he had acquired the possessions of Christian Scott, a well-established jazz musician who is listed as having studio space on Bay Street in Jersey City.

Since 2002, Scott has released eight studio albums, and two live recordings. His debut album for Concord Records, “Rewind That,” received a Grammy. Scott received the Edison Award in 2010 and 2012.

Scott, a trumpeter, composer and producer, has been called “a new Miles Davis. Indeed, in the storage unit was a letter to Scott from Miles Davis’ son, as well as a host of other personal and profession items.

Monetti has tried to reach Scott and his music public relations office to negotiate reselling the items back to the performer. But is currently on a tour in Europe, which may explain why he or his representatives apparently failed to pay the storage unit’s charges for two months.

In the past, Monetti has made a point of giving back things that are particularly personal. The law requires that certain things be given back, such as medicine. He has often brokered down prices to that he can cover costs of the bid, labor, and include a modest profit.

While Monetti has asked for $25,000, he said he expects a counteroffer in return so that he and Scott might come to an agreement.

But so far, the PR firm has not responded with an offer and Scott, whose has several residences -- including a space on Bay Street in Jersey City -- has not been available. His representatives did not return emails from the Reporter.

“I would love to return his things,” Monetti said. “But this is how I make my living, and I need to recover some of what I’ve already invested in this.”

The contents include a number of significant items, including Scott’s successful Grammy nomination, a silver-plated trumpet which is apparently the first instrument he owned, a number of unreleased recordings and videos of performances.

There is even a copy of signed recording contract.

“Some of these things I’m sure he would want back,” said Monetti. “This is like a baseball player with keepsakes from early in his career.”

Monetti said he tried to reach the public relations representative, but was unsuccessful. He has recently reached out to the public relations firm through newscaster Brian Thompson of NBC.

Monetti said he would like to return the items to Scott, but wants to get paid for it, and is willing to negotiate.

Storage companies do provide services that could help people like Scott avoid situations like this, such as automatic payment plan – where funds are paid from a bank account.

Monetti said expenses include his bid on the unit, payment to three workers to help him clear out the storage unit as well as his own time invested.

If Monetti cannot come to an agreement with Scott or Scott’s representative, he will start selling the items, some of which will be considered of value to jazz collectors.

The items include a number of legal documents as well as magazine articles from around the world about Scott to unreleased CDs to live performances.

The letter from Jason Miles, Miles Davis’s son, would likely fetch a significant amount since it is of historic value.

He said people bid on storage units based on what they see when the door opens.

This is not the first celebrity’s storage that Monetti has obtained over years, and has collected materials from people such as rapper Red Café, an associate of TMZ.

“I would really like to get this stuff back to him. But this is a business and I need to recover my costs,” Monetti said. “I would welcome a counter offer.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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