Auction selling unclaimed military belongings canceled after heavy criticism

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - A local auction set to sell off sealed, unclaimed boxes containing military belongings this weekend has been canceled.

This week Gene Daniels Auctions in Chesapeake advertised it was auctioning off 105 shipping containers containing unclaimed property of service members who had been stationed overseas. The boxes had been stored in a warehouse belonging to Bay Area Movers in Portsmouth.

Military auction

The Facebook post advertising the auction included pictures of some of the boxes, which quickly started making rounds online.

Some said one of the pictures showed a box that had arrived only in April, which led to accusations of stealing from military service members. Much of the backlash came from members of the military community. A Twitter hashtag #stealingfromfreedomfighters also began circulating.

Gene Daniels Auctions cancelled the auction Thursday following a flood of complaints.

Jean McRae, owner of Bay Area Movers, tells News 3 it's within the company's legal right to hold an auction and she says containers up for auction have been in their warehouse since at least 2008, with one there since 1988.

She says the picture of the box that arrived in April was taken by mistake and that it's already been sent to its owner.

McRae says the military notifies service members that their belongings are being held at Bay Area Movers and will typically pay for the storage for 90 days. After that the service members must pay.

McRae says her warehouse was getting full of unclaimed containers and she needed to make room for the summer and before selecting containers for auction, notifications were sent to service members three times asking them to pick up their property and pay the storage bill.

Bay Area Movers still intends to hold an auction at a later time, but McRae says the company is working with the military's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command to figure out its next move.