Mark Balelo, an auction-house owner who appeared as a buyer on A&E’s hit reality TV show “Storage Wars,” has died in an apparent suicide, according to news reports. Balelo’s body was discovered this morning inside the garage at his business in Simi Valley, Calif., which has led to speculation that he died from carbon-monoxide poisoning. The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office has not issued a cause of death. Balelo was 40.
Nicknamed “Rico Suave” for his flamboyant style, Balelo was memorable on the show for bringing more than $50,000 in cash to storage auctions and carrying a “man purse.” He first appeared during the show’s second season.
Balelo’s death comes just two days after he was arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine. He was reportedly distraught after being released from jail.
In addition to owning Balelo Inc., a company specializing in auctions, liquidations and closeout sales, Balelo also ran a gaming store called The Game Exchange. His hobbies included flying private planes and listening to music. He was engaged to be married.
An autopsy is scheduled for Feb. 12.
Members of Self-Storage Talk (SST), the self-storage industry’s largest online community, have been posting reactions and condolences since the news broke. “This is so sad for his family’s loss, but like the ongoing lawsuit between A&E and Dave Hester, it just shows that it may be reality TV, but sometimes reality does happen,” wrote SST moderator MisterJim444.
Hester, one of the show’s most popular stars, filed a lawsuit against the network in December for wrongful termination. He claims he was fired from the show after complaining it was phony. In the lawsuit, Hester said show producers planted valuable items inside storage units up for auction, including some items that belonged to the show’s stars and others that were borrowed from antique dealers in exchange for an appearance on the show.