Why the Maraschino Cherry mogul killed himself after cops discovered his grow-op
He only would have served a few years in prison.
None of the officers expected the outcome when they came to the Dell’s Maraschino Cherries factory in February 2015. Arthur Mondella had been running the New York City factory since 1983, and the police only got a warrant to investigate if the factory had been violating wastewater laws. When one officer noticed a fake wall, Mondella asked to be excused to the washroom. He proceeded to lock himself in and told his sister from behind the door to take care of his children. He then shot himself.
It turns out that Mondella had been running a marijuana grow-op in the basement, a fact unbeknownst to his family and factory workers. The story became a bit of a tabloid tantrum, which claimed Mondella was raking in millions with his double life, but writer and expert fly-on-the-wall Ian Frazier revisited the strange affair for the New Yorker in an extensive feature investigation.
“Reading the articles that came out, that was how we knew,” said Dominique Mondella, one of Arthur’s daughters. “I guess he was protecting us.”
Beneath the Maraschino cherry factory was 2,500 square feet of cannabis. Hydroponics, grow lights and around 100 plants. There was also thousands of dollars in cash and a particularly incriminating item, a copy of “The World Encyclopedia of Organized Crime.” In his secret life, Mondella was collecting vintage luxury cars, owned a boat and had proposed to a Penthouse model.
There had been rumors in 2009 about a grow-op within the factory. When bees in the area were producing honey tainted by syrup in the factory, law enforcement hoped it would become an excuse to investigate. But the opportunity never arose. The rumor was dismissed as hearsay and nothing came of it. Who can say what Arthur Mondella was thinking when officers came to his business in 2015. Frazier estimates that he would have only served a few years in prison, with parole.
The factory, sans weed, is now operated by his daughters. “When my father came, the business was failing,” said Dominique, “he took a risk, he put everything he had into it, and he made it so much better, a real success. When we came, it looked as if it was going to fail, because of everything that was happening around it. And we took a risk.”