Photo Credit: Mark Balelo/Facebook
Things have gone from bad to tragic for fans of Storage Wars. Mark Balelo, who joined the A&E reality show in Season 2, was found dead in his parked car on Monday morning, reportedly the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was 40 years old.
Balelo, who spend his teenage years on a fishing boat in his native Brazil before joining the storage-auction game, was reportedly arrested on Saturday for a "drug-related offense." His time in jail seems to have sent him on a downward spiral; according to TMZ, Balelo called his fiancee Sunday night and asked her to come over, because he was afraid he might hurt himself. They met at his office and hung out for a few hours, until he "seemed better." The next morning, he was dead.
Balero's suicide is just the latest (and saddest) blow to the popular reality show, which follows professional storage unit buyers as they bid on abandoned units and hunt for treasure. In December, former cast member Dave Hester (the "yuuuup" guy) filed a lawsuit against A&E, claiming that the entire show was rigged.
"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," Hester, who was fired from the series, alleged in his lawsuit. He also claimed to have participated in this fake-auction scheme.
The legal battle has resulted in a ton of bad publicity for the series and made viewers question whether anything they've been watching is authentic.
Meanwhile, the network has vigorously denied Hester's allegations, calling it a bitter revenge scheme from an ex-employee who's trying to make himself look like a hero.
Show auctioneer Dan Dotson has also defended the series, telling TMZ that "every unit goes through a 64-day legal process and no one has access to units prior to auction.”
So far, all the negativity surrounding Storage Wars has not dramatically affected its ratings. Maybe in this day and age, savvy viewers expect their reality shows to be a little bit staged. Unfortunately, the death of Mark Balelo is all too real, and the future of the whole series may be in jeopardy.