Dell’s Maraschino Cherries is a real-life Breaking Bad situation.
A cherry plant, located in Brooklyn New York, was owned by Arthur Mondella, who killed himself after authorities discovered his illegal enterprise: an underground marijuana farm. The underground facility had one-hundred and twenty high powered lamps, and a “sophisticated irrigation system,” according to the New York Daily News. It was also reported that the set up had the ability to grow approximately one-thousand plants of marijuana each week.
Authorities discovered the operation after noticing an outdated shelving system while executing a search warrant for environmental crimes at the cherry factory. Behind the shelving system was a crawl space which led to a fifty square foot area divided into offices and different growing rooms. The Daily News reports that in one of the offices there were about fifty books concerning botanics and a copy of “World Encyclopedia of Organized Crime,” as well as seeds of sixty different marijuana strains. The office also contained approximately $125,000 in cash and three luxury cars according to CBS News.
Mondella was able to hide his illegal operation underneath his legitimate family business due to the size of the industrial plant and the scent of cherries which masked not only the smell of the marijuana plants, but also the energy costs of such a large operation.
The company is cooperating with the District Attorney’s office, and will continue to resume their cherry business in spite of the recent discovery. Authorities believe that Mondella had a partner in the illegal enterprise, but have not released suspects names at this time.
Authorities were brought to the plant to “close a case relating to illegal dumping of toxins,” according to the Daily News. Detectives admit that they had heard rumors about potential marijuana involvement, but this issue was not discussed before investigating the plant.
It is reported by the Daily News that after the crawl space was discovered, Mondella “excused himself to the bathroom” and told his sister to take care of his children. Once in the restroom, Mondella used an “ankle-holstered pistol” to shoot himself in the head.
Dell’s was founded in 1948, and is one of the largest maraschino cherry producers in the country. Each year they process approximately 14 million pounds of cherries to supply to restaurants such as TGI Friday’s and Chick-fil-A. Mondella was the third generation of his family to operate the cherry factory; he leaves behind his three children.
This instance really raises the question whether or not TV shows such as Breaking Bad or Weeds are encouraging people to pursue illegal activities while under the impression they can outwit the authorities.