The largest marijuana farm in the history of New York was discovered in the basement of Dell’s Maraschino Cherries Company in Brooklyn. The 2,500 square feet of space was able to hold 1,200 plants. A network of 120 high-end growing lamps and a complex irrigation system nurtured the growing cannabis.
Authorities stumbled upon the marijuana grow operation during a separate investigation involving allegations that the factory was polluting the surrounding neighborhood’s water supply. Investigators were at the factory only to search company files when one officer noticed something strange in the owner’s office. The entrance to the secret basement was hidden behind a false book case, which the officer reportedly noticed and smelled marijuana coming from behind it.
Arthur Mondella (photo below), the company owner, shot himself in the bathroom before investigators were able to get a warrant to search the basement.
Dell’s Maraschino Cherries Company was founded in 1948 by Arthur Mondella’s grandfather. Arthur inherited the company from his father, and reportedly led a very private, unsuspecting life. According to authorities, the location of the marijuana farm was ideal because it was masked by the thick scent of the factory’s cherry processing, and the large electrical needs of the farm would go unnoticed because the factory already used a lot of it.
Authorities are still looking into whether any company employees may have known about or been involved with the marijuana operation. They are also investigating possible links Mondella had to organized crime.