It turns out business at Dell’s Maraschino Cherries, one of the largest factories of its kind in the country, involved more than confections.
On Tuesday, New York investigators uncovered what appeared to be a drug operation — one that law enforcement had suspected for months.
The factory housed a “huge marijuana-growing operation,” a law enforcement source told the New York Daily News.
Initially, the owner, Arthur Mondella, 57, cooperated with officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the city Department of Environmental Protection, and detectives from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office looking for evidence of waste into the already polluted waters around the factory.
Once inside, however, one detective noticed shelving attached to the wall with magnets, instead of the usual and more permanent screws, the Daily News reported.
The wall turned out to be fake and led to a basement room filled with bags of weed, the New York Post reported — 80 pounds of it as well as cash stashed all around the factory, according to the Daily News. Investigators also found pricey vehicles, including a Rolls-Royce, a Porsche, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
“Underground, it was really ‘Breaking Bad,” a shocked police source, referring to the repurposed basement where Walter White cooked meth, told the Daily News.
After the discoveries, Mondella immediately went to one of the factory’s bathrooms and shot himself, committing suicide.
“Take care of my kids,” sources told the Post Mondella said to his sister, Joanne Capece, standing outside the bathroom. Mondella kept a licensed gun strapped to his ankle, another source told the Daily News.
“Poor guy, in this day and age, you can do no jail time for marijuana,” a law enforcement source told the Post. “I don’t know why he would do that, unless there’s something worse down there.”
In 2013, the Brooklyn DA’s office received a tip that the factory was a front for a marijuana operation, according to the Daily News. Law enforcement had kept close watch on the building for months and used the environmental angle to obtain warrants.
To the frustration of Brooklyn beekeepers, the factory’s syrupy byproducts also piqued the appetites of area bees, likely tainting their honey with Red Dye No. 4, the New York Times reported, adding to environmental concerns.
Founded in 1948 by Mondella’s grandfather and father, Dells manufacturing sites covers 38,000 square feet in the Red Hook neighbourhood of Brooklyn. The company, which supplies big names like TGI Fridays, Red Lobster, and Chick-fil-A, to name a few, according to Eater.com, just underwent a $US5 million upgrade, the Daily News reported in November.
“We felt we had to do something to kick-start sales,” Mondella told the publication then.
After 67 years, business at Dells has halted for the duration of the investigation. Although no charges has been issues, twelve hours after investigators first arrived, boxes were still being carried to vans, CBS New York reported.
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