On Tuesday morning, investigators arrived at Dell’s maraschino cherry factory in Brooklyn, New York to investigate reports that workers were dumping hazardous materials into the sewer system. While searching the office of Arthur Mondella, head of Dell’s and grandson of the company’s founder, investigators discovered a fake wall and, catching a whiff of marijuana, asked Mondella what lay behind it. Mondella asked to be excused to use the bathroom. On his way there, he yelled to his sister to take care of his kids. He then entered the bathroom, removed the handgun he kept strapped to his ankle, and shot himself dead.
What lay behind that wall, it turns out, was marijuana: For years, Mondella had used his cherry factory as a front for a booming weed business. Investigators discovered 80 to 90 pounds of marijuana, $200,000 of cash stuffed in suitcases, and three luxury cars—all stored underground beneath the factory. Apparently, Mondella carried out his drug operation with subtlety; Joe Morrine, the owner of a neighboring business, told reporters he never witnessed a hint of illicit conduct:
Morrine said he never suspected that the warehouse might contain a possible drug operation as authorities alleged.
“It doesn’t make sense that it would be a front; I mean, they’re a legitimate business. They’ve been around for a long time,” Morrine said. “Just a normal business operating; you know, lots of forklifts moving things in and out; nice people.”
Mondella, then, really was a true professional: Forklifts are a notoriously difficult aspect of drug production to master.