Cherry Popped On Massive Drug Operation

In a bizarre case of hide and seek, a well-known maraschino cherry factory in Brooklyn, New York was concealing a pot growing operation, that was discovered on February 25. Although it may sound like something out of a stoner comedy, the story has a more painful twist.

Photo by Stankx for
Photo by Stankx for

When investigators began to poke around at this factory, the owner of the food business, Arthur Mondello,?excused himself from the inspection tour.?He reportedly told?his sister to “take care of my kids,” then shot himself in the restroom.?It was later discovered that the third generation owner of Dell’s Maraschino Cherries in Red Hook, Brooklyn, had apparently hidden a sizable marijuana farm within his business.

Cash, numerous pot plants, shelves with books about plants and botany, seedlings, seeds, and other drug tools and paraphernalia were found behind fake walls, and the smell of pot was not completely masked by the aroma of syrupy sweet cherries. Social media has been labeling this a “real life” version?of TV’s Breaking Bad.

Investigators from the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, as well as some from the Department of Environmental Conservation came to investigate illegal dumping of toxins. He was to be investigated for possibly dumping sticky red liquid waste into the water. As well, red bees?have been spotted in the neighborhood for a while.

A?67 year old business founded by Mondello’s father and grandfather,?Dell’s supplies their bright-red product to major customers such as Chick-fil-A and TGI Friday. The firm is housed in a nondescript building?which had some?neighbors wondering about the luxury cars parked at the site, such as a Rolls Royce and a Porsche.

In the neighborhood of Red Hook, a factory producing a red product legally and reportedly disposing of a red by-product illegally was the site of an illegal green business. That sounds like the making of a country song.

Red Hook is in the western section of Brooklyn and?has long been home to industrial plants and a large public housing development. In recent years it has seen a renaissance of sorts, with the addition of?the popular Fairway Market?near the river?and a new?Ikea store.

Smaller businesses and groups such as Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, Sixpoint Brewery and BWAC, Brooklyn Waterfront Artists, also call the area home. Cruise ships berth in the harbor?and some of the roads are still paved with cobblestones. Art galleries, Cremation Consultants,?and a hodgepodge of business and residential buildings.?With old-time working class grit and the influx of?more recent hipster sensibilities, Dell’s Cherries on Dikeman Street seemed to be just another local business. But now the cherry is popped and people will need to fuel their habits elsewhere.


Ellen Levitt is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn (2009), The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011) and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (2013), all published by Avotaynu. She is a lifelong New Yorker, a veteran public school teacher, writer and photographer. Bird lover as well.