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Mark Balelo Dead: 'Storage Wars' Star Dies At 40

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Mark Balelo
Mark Balelo

Mark Balelo, an auction house owner featured on the A&E reality TV show "Storage Wars," was found dead on Feb. 11, The Ventura County Star reported. He was 40.

Balelo was one of the deep-pocketed buyers featured on the show that depicts storage-unit auctions. The former owner of a chain of thrift stores, Balelo had a knack for bargaining and finding treasure among trash.

Nicknamed "Rico Suave" for his flamboyant style, Balelo once hosted a live auction right before Halloween while dressed as Superman. He carried a "man purse" (or "murse"), which he considered his good-luck bag; the murses became so popular with fans that he later sold them on eBay. Balelo also was instrumental in helping Nicolas Cage recover a mint-condition copy of a 1938 Action Comics book that was stolen from the actor's storage locker. The comic book was valued at $1 million.

Balelo owned Balelo Inc., a business that specializes in asset liquidations and closeout sales. Until recently, he ran a gaming store called The Game Exchange. Although Balelo loved working -- "My work is my hobby nowadays" -- his 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 carrying more than $50,000 in cash.

Balelo was arrested over the weekend for alleged possession of a controlled substance, E! Online reported. He was reportedly distraught after being released from jail.

According to TMZ.com, one of Balelo's employees found his body inside the garage of his Simi Valley, Calif., home.

Armando Chavez, senior deputy medical examiner, refused to provide any information as to Balelo's cause of death, Reuters reported. An autopsy will be conducted on Feb. 12.

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