Mark Balelo – sometimes known on the show as “Rico Suave”– was found dead on Monday, two days after being arrested on suspicion of drug possession. Fans knew him as a flamboyant, deep-pocketed buyer who appeared on several episodes during seasons two and three of Storage Wars. He made a name for himself on the show for bringing large amounts of cash to auctions and buying units out from under seasoned bidders on the show.
He was the owner of Balelo Inc., a company that bought and liquidated the contents of storage units in addition to other merchandise. The company employs over 50 people at several branches and offers services like “auctions, liquidations, reburbishing and repair, manufacturing, wholesale, retail, closeouts and distribution” according to his self-written biography on A&E's website. He was also well-known for his role in returning a $1 million stolen comic to movie star Nicholas Cage after it resurfaced in a storage auction a decade after its theft.
Balelo had received drug charges once before in 2009. He pled guilty to the charge of “sale or transport of a controlled substance” and spent 60 days in jail in addition to a three year parole. On Saturday, February 9, Balelo was arrested at his workplace for being under the influence of drugs and having possession of methamphetamine. His court date was scheduled for the 19th.
Sources say that Balelo was distraught after the arrest. His body was found on Monday morning in his vehicle, which had been left running in a garage at his Simi Valley home. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the autopsy report released by the Ventura County Coroner's Office, Balelo's death has been ruled a suicide. He was 40 years old.