BROOKLYN, New York — A warehouse inspection of Dell’s Maraschino Cherries factory led to a drug bust with a fatal twist when agents discovered a large marijuana grow operation.The operation has some making comparisons to the AMC television show “Breaking Bad.” On Tuesday morning, investigators were at the famous maraschino cherry factory in New York City because they suspected the factory was illegally dumping “hazardous materials” into the city sewer system.
Sources tell CBS that Dell’s wasn’t just in the business of sweet red cherries they were also hiding some sticky green plants.
For about five hours the owner cooperated fully but during their search, investigators said they smelled marijuana. That’s when the owner made a tragic decision that no one saw coming.
Sure enough, inside this family-run factory, tucked behind a fake wall, inspectors found 90 pounds of marijuana, hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed in suitcases, and three luxury cars.
It was a false front, an elaborate drug operation that seems like it could have played out in the popular, fictional series “Breaking Bad,” where an industrial laundromat masked a meth laboratory.
Arthur Mondella, age 57, was the third generation to run Dell's cherry company. Sources said after inspectors said they smelled marijuana, Mondella excused himself to his private bathroom.
He yelled to his sister -- "take care of my kids", and then shot and killed himself.
"Everybody loved him in the neighborhood,” residents said. “Everybody loved him - he was a good guy.”
Founded in 1948, Dell's is one of the largest maraschino cherry producers in the country, they process more than 14 million pounds of cherries a year, and supply restaurants like T.G.I. Fridays and Chick fil-a.
The factory underwent a $5 million dollar upgrade just last year.
But on Wednesday, as officers were still carrying boxes out of the factory, cherry jars sat empty on a stalled assembly line.