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Auctioneer featured on TV's "Storage Wars" found dead in garage

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mark Balelo, a Southern California auction house owner featured on the reality television show "Storage Wars," was found dead at his place of business on Monday, the Ventura County coroner's office said. He was 40.

Balelo, whose company, Balelo Inc, specialized in asset liquidations and closeout sales, was found by an employee in the garage of his auction house in Simi Valley, a suburban community northwest of Los Angeles, said Armando Chavez, senior deputy medical examiner.

Chavez declined to provide any information about the circumstances or apparent cause of death. He said an autopsy was expected to be performed Tuesday morning.

But the Los Angeles-based celebrity news website TMZ.com reported Monday night that Balelo committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The TMZ report, citing unnamed sources, said the auctioneer was found dead in his car, which was parked and running in the garage. TMZ also reported that Balelo had been despondent following an arrest on Saturday for a drug-related offense.

Balelo, a shrewd businessman nicknamed "Rico Suave" for his flashy wardrobe, appeared on several episodes during the second and third seasons of "Storage Wars," a series on the A&E cable channel about a group of auctioneers and buyers.

(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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