Late in February, the owner of Dell’s Maraschino Cherries in Brooklyn, Arthur Mondella, committed suicide when police discovered a large-scale marijuana-growing operation behind a fake wall at the factory. Almost 100 lbs. of marijuana were recovered from the factory, along with luxury vehicles and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. Now, police suspect that there may also be a connection to organized crime.
A law enforcement source told the New York Post that the grow house looked expensive and “extremely professional.” The source added that “it was professionally done, whatever was done down there, but it wasn’t in the building plans.” In addition to the rows of plants and luxury vehicles, the basement operation housed a freezer, an elevator, and a small library of books — including the “World Encyclopedia of Organized Crime.”
Law enforcement officials believe Mondella would have needed help to run such a large operation, but theorize that the cherry factory’s employees did not know about the underground farm. Organized crime groups would have been able to provide Mondella with the necessary assistance to maintain the farm and distribute his products.
“The way you have to set that up, there’s got to be plumbers and electricians working off the books who are very sophisticated,” a source told the New York Times, “and it wasn’t Arthur Mondella, as far as we know, that had that kind of skills.” He explained that the operation was the largest any of the investigators had ever seen in New York City.
Marijuana is a popular drug, with an excess of 94 million United States residents admitting to its use. Studies show that in the past 30 days, 48.5% of Americans have used a prescription drug, though they do not mention whether it is recreationally or in a manufacturer-approved setting.
Law enforcement officials, while sorting through mass quantities of evidence, are unable to obtain the contents of Mondella’s phone to find information about contacts, clients, or motivation.