No one would ever expect an innocent Maraschino Cherry factory that supplied Chick-fil-A, Red Lobster, Buffalo Wild Wings, and T.G.I. Fridays with bright red cherries to be a front for a drug-trafficking operation. Or would they?
On Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m., New York police raided the family-owned Brooklyn-based Dell’s Maraschino Cherries’ factory owned by 57-year-old Arthur Mondella with a warrant for environmental violations, claiming the factory had been dumping hazardous waste in the water supply system. Mondella cooperated with investigators for a whole five hours as they searched the factory for evidence.
Then one investigator claimed to smell marijuana coming from the walls.
Mondella called over his sister, Joanne Capece, who was also present, and reportedly told her to “take care of my kids,” according to the Daily Mail. He then excused himself to go to his private bathroom, locked the door and shot himself at 1:30 p.m. Those present claimed to hear just a single gunshot, according to CBS New York.
Mondella was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead from a .357 magnum handgun wound.
Meanwhile at the factory, 25 District Attorney officials discovered a secret room behind a set of magnet-operated shelves. In it they found 80 pounds of marijuana, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
Investigators also found several vintage luxury cars hidden under a tarp in a back lot.
“It appears there was another activity going on, that’s for sure … I don’t think you kill yourself over a bag of weed. There has to be more of it.”
Dell’s Maraschino Cherries was founded in 1948 by Arthur Mondella Sr. as a simple Brooklyn storefront and remained family owned and operated for 76 years. The company recently underwent a $5 million overhaul, and Brooklyn’s D.A. office had received a tip off about a marijuana operation in 2013, according to the New York Post.
The incident with Dell’s Maraschino Cherries is of course incredibly reminiscent to the show “Breaking Bad,” where Gustavo Fring’s several business fronts, including his Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant-drug supply network and laundromat equipped with a secret meth production lab, were subsidiaries of a German conglomerate, Madrigal Electromotive, where an executive also committed suicide after receiving news the drug-trafficking operation had been compromised.
The company has not yet released a statement and all cherry operations have been halted. Mondella is survived by his ex-wife, Yevgeniya, and a five-year-old daughter.