Investigators scoured a Brooklyn maraschino cherry factory and grilled its workers Wednesday after the owner’s suicide exposed the business as cover for a huge marijuana operation.
Probers armed with search warrants were back at Dell’s Maraschino Cherries, gathering evidence one day after third-generation owner Arthur Mondella fatally shot himself inside a factory bathroom.
“The investigators are questioning everybody,” said a close friend of the late businessman. “Not only about what happened with the suicide, but also about the drugs.”
The Mondella pal said he didn’t believe any of the dead man’s relatives were aware of the illegal pot-growing operation sprouting beneath the cherry factory.
But he said Mondella was known to spend up to 20 hours a day working at the factory, including shifts on Christmas Day and other holidays — a devotion perhaps explained by his second business.
MICHAEL GRAAE/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWSPolice arrived Wednesday at Dell’s Maraschino Cherries in Brooklyn armed with evidence bags a day after the owner’s shocking death and even more shocking pot-growing revelations.
After Mondella shot himself in the head, authorities discovered a huge marijuana growing operation in the basement of the Red Hook factory — a scenario straight out of “Breaking Bad.”
Law enforcement sources wondered if there was more to Mondella’s bizarre story than manufacturing cherries upstairs and growing marijuana downstairs.
“You don’t kill youself over weed,” one source told the Daily News. “There has to be more than that.”
His adult daughter Dominique, through a cousin, declined to speak about the ongoing investigation.
You can work your entire career in Red Hook and never really know what’s going on in one of these big buildings. You can have an illegal operation going on right under your nose.
“We’re not interested,” the cousin said. “I’m sorry. She doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now.”
Mondella, a twice-married father of three, showed no outward signs of leading a double life. Just last year, his business underwent a $5 million renovation.
“Absolutely would have never suspected anything,” said the owner of a nearby business. “Everybody loved him in the neighborhood. He was a good guy. I really have nothing but nice things to say about the man.”
A police source indicated investigators were just as perplexed by the discovery of the drug den in what started as a raid for environmental violations — dumping syrup and other waste into the water.
On Wednesday, workers and what appear to be family arrive at Dell’s Maraschino Cherries, the scene of owner Arthur Mondella’s suicide and purported secret drug operation.
“It’s very odd … Strange,” said the source. “You can work your entire career in Red Hook and never really know what’s going on in one of these big buildings. You can have an illegal operation going on right under your nose.”
Investigators also recovered about 80 pounds of pot stuffed inside three bags, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash kept in safes at the business.
Mondella, 57, initially cooperated with the 25 investigators who flooded his factory about 8 a.m. Tuesday.
But his mood turned once a detective became suspicious about a flimsy-looking section of shelving held in place by magnets — and other investigators caught a faint whiff of weed.
JOE MARINO/NEW YORK DAILY NEWSThe unassuming cherry factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn, allegedly housed a massive marijuana operation, authorities say.
When asked about the shelves, Mondella excused himself, locked the door to his private bathroom and took his own life.
“Take care of my kids!” he screamed at his sister Joanne Capece before pulling the trigger.
The Mondella family, which opened the business in 1939, was looking to get the operation up and running again, according to Mondella’s friend.
Truckers arriving for pickups and deliveries Wednesday morning were simply turned away as investigators scoured the building and questioned employees.
Ranjit Gill, a trucker who made a 14-hour, 750-mile trip from Indiana, was shocked to arrive and hear the sordid tale about Mondella.
“This is a surprise to me that something like that would happen here,” he said.