NYPD: Maraschino cherry processor raided; drug operation found
(ABC) -- In a scene reminiscent of the TV show "Breaking Bad," New York City investigators raided the business of one of the nation's largest processors of maraschino cherries -- only to find that his Brooklyn factory also allegedly served as a marijuana growing operation, authorities said. Investigators returned to the factory today in the Red Hook section, a day after the owner shot and killed himself in an apparent suicide as authorities raided it, police said.
There's a good chance the cherry atop your sundae or at the bottom of your Manhattan is from Dell's Maraschino Cherries, a family business founded in 1948 that now appears to have also hosted what sources described to ABC News as a large-scale, elaborate marijuana growing operation.
A team of city and state environmental regulators, along with prosecutors from the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, had been at the company for several hours Tuesday investigating a complaint of illegal chemical dumping in the waters off Red Hook, prosecutors said.
At first owner Arthur Mondella, 57, cooperated with the search, police said. Then, as investigators discovered "flimsy shelving and a faint smell of marijuana," a source briefed on the investigation said, Mondella became increasingly vague.
When a team member said, "Well we're going to get a warrant to get behind this wall" that's when Mondella "excused himself to his private bathroom where he apparently shot himself and died at a local hospital," a statement from the Brooklyn District Attorney's office said.
Prior to the gunshot, a source said Mondella yelled to his sister, who had been standing outside the bathroom: "Take care of my kids."
About 80 pounds of marijuana were recovered in three huge bags. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash was also found on the property, authorities said.
Several luxury cars were also recovered, including a Rolls-Royce, a Porsche and Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Mondella has a couple prior arrests, but they are sealed. A previous 2011 arrest for assaulting his second wife at their former Brighton Beach home had been dropped, authorities said.
Dell's Maraschino Cherries had recently undergone a $5 million makeover of its Red Hook plant which employs a dozen people.
The investigation into environmental crimes continues though it remains unclear whether anyone would now face charges.