'Storage Wars' Star Dies in Apparent Suicide

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013 02:57 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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A California auction house owner who starred on the A&E reality television show "Storage Wars" was found dead of an apparent suicide at his workplace on Monday, days after being arrested on a drug-related offense.

Mark Balelo, 40, owner of Balelo Inc. in Simi Valley, a liquidation merchandise business, was known as one of the "Storage Wars" big buyers who had a knack for bargaining and finding treasure among trash. Nicknamed "Rico Suave," Balelo made headlines in 2011 when he helped actor Nicolas Cage recover a mint-condition copy of a 1938 Action Comics book that was stolen from his storage locker.

Balelo was arrested Saturday in connection with possession of methamphetamine, the Ventura County Star said.

TMZ reported that Balelo was distraught when he was released from jail after the arrest and called his fiancée to tell her he might hurt himself. The two reportedly met at his office on Sunday and talked for a few hours. Balelo then took a four-hour nap and said he was feeling better, so his fiancée left, TMZ said. Balelo was scheduled to appear in Ventura County Superior Court Feb. 19.

One of Balelo's employees reportedly found his body Monday morning inside his running car in the parking garage at his auction house, according to TMZ. Balelo apparently committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.

According to his eBay seller page description, Balelo's favorite past-times included flying private planes, listening to music, hanging out with friends and going to Vegas. A strong competitor with a no-holds-barred attitude, he was best known on "Storage Wars" for beating the competition by showing up to auctions with more than $50,000 in cash.

In December, fired “Storage Wars” star Dave Hester, 47, filed a lawsuit against A&E and the reality show’s producers, claiming they committed “fraud on the public” through an alleged “intent to deceive” the show’s audience.

Hester was one of seven principal cast members who travel to public auctions across California where they bid against each other to obtain the contents of abandoned storage lockers, which they then resell through their own venues.


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