The “Storage Wars” Curse: Mark Balelo’s Suicide Follows Dave Hester’s Lawsuit and Reported Bankruptcy
The body of Mark Balelo, a buyer who appeared on several episodes of Storage Wars , was found on Monday, apparently the victim of suicide. The 40-year-old Balelo, known as Rico Suave on the show due to his flamboyant clothes and attitude, had been arrested two days earlier on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine. It’s believed that he committed suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning. An autopsy was scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
Balelo had reportedly sunken into a depression after his arrest, and had phoned his fiancé to come over “because he was concerned he may hurt himself,” according to the New York Daily News. She left him at his office “after he seemed to be doing better, but his body was found early Monday morning by employees.”
In 2011, Balelo bought a storage locker that contained a 1938 Action Comics #1 comic book that apparently had been stolen from a locker belonging to Nicolas Cage some 10 years earlier. Balelo returned the comic book, which was valued at $1 million, to Cage. Reno 911! creators Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant reportedly plan to turn the story into a movie, though oddly it won’t star Cage but possibly Jason Statham.
Meanwhile, a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by former cast member Dave Hester continues to wend its way through the legal system. Hester, who filed the suit in December after being fired from the show, alleges that Storage Wars producers intentionally placed valuable items inside the storage lockers that are unopened on the show in an effort to gin up ratings and buzz.
In his lawsuit, Hester alleges that he was fired because he complained to network A&E that the reality show is in fact staged, and that he is owed around $2.2 million. “The truth is that (producers) regularly salt or plant the storage lockers that are the subject of the auctions portrayed on the series with valuable or unusual items to create drama and suspense for the show,” the suit reads.
A&E has asked that the case be thrown out of court, but intriguingly has not commented on Hester’s charges that the show’s events are staged for the cameras.
Rumors that Hester is currently bankrupt seem to be just that, as confirmation of his bankruptcy cannot be made as of this writing.
As for Storage Wars itself, its last original episode aired on December 18, 2012; A&E still lists it as an active show, but no details on its future have been made public.