Brooklyn Cherry Company Was Cover for One of NYC’s Biggest Ever Pot Farms

By May Wilkerson 03/02/15

Arthur Mondella shot and killed himself last week after investigators discovered the operation.

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Maraschino cherry magnate Arthur Mondella, who committed suicide last week, had been running one of the largest marijuana farms ever discovered in New York City, the New York Times reports.

The massive grow operation, hidden in the basement of Dell’s Maraschino Cherries Company, reportedly spanned 2,500 square feet and had the capacity to harvest up to 1,200 pot plants.

Mondella, 57, shot and killed himself last Tuesday shortly after investigators discovered the operation. Given the success of the cherry company, the Times says it remains unknown why Mondella would have pursued an illicit source of income, and also why he killed himself so quickly upon its discovery. Officials reportedly suspect possible links to organized crime.

It seems Mondella must have had some help running the operation, which investigators say is the largest they had ever seen in New York. It included 120 grow lamps, about 60 strains of marijuana seeds, an irrigation system and a library of books on horticulture. Officials also found about $125,000 in cash.

"The way you have to set that up, there's got to be plumbers and electricians working off the books who are very sophisticated, and it wasn't Arthur Mondella, as far as we know, that had that kind of skills," said an anonymous law enforcement official involved in the investigation.

Investigators are still looking in to whether other employees in the cherry business were involved with the grow operation, which was concealed behind a secret entrance. The anonymous official said the cherry factory provided a “very convenient” cover for the operation, since it required a huge amount of electricity. Also, the strong smell of cherries masked the scent of marijuana.

"The business was not doing poorly; the business was doing very well," the Mondella family's lawyer, Michael Farkas, told the Times. "We were unaware of any major problems in Arthur's life. Somebody knows—but we're all waiting for answers here."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.