Brooklyn cherry factory owner commits suicide during drug probe

Thursday, February 26, 2015
Factory owner commits suicide during drug probe
Darla Miles has the story of a Brooklyn cherry factory owner who killed himself while under investigation.

RED HOOK (WABC) -- Investigators are combing through evidence after a cherry factory owner in Brooklyn committed suicide while under a criminal investigation.

Dell's Maraschino Cherries in Red Hook is one of the largest in the business, producing more than a billion cherries every year and earning the company millions of dollars.

But while owner Arthur Mondella had a lucrative business, authorities say there were other things going on behind the scene.

And when investigators moved in late Tuesday, they say Mondella went to his private bathroom inside the building and took his own life.

Crime scene investigators were still inside the factor removing bags of evidence. They say that Mondella had an elaborate set up inside, where he was growing marijuana on a large scale.

Police became suspicious after a complaint that the company was dumping chemicals illegally, and they said he appeared paranoid and nervous during several hours of interviewing him.

They also noticed an odd shelving system inside the warehouse, and after taking a closer look, they found a false wall leading to a basement. And that's where they found about 80 pounds of marijuana, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and very expensive cars.

By then, investigators say Mondella had excused himself, walked into the bathroom, pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.

He reportedly told his sister who works here at the company to please take care of his children prior to his suicide.

Now, production has stopped at the family-owned and operated company, which employs about two dozen people.

The company's website says it was founded in 1948 and became one of the largest processors of maraschino cherries in the country.

"It has depressed me so much I cannot event work today," said a neighboring business employee, Bronya Schuster.

"It's tragic. And it's a shame that happened to him and his family, because they are very very nice, all around people," said business associate John Fasano.