New York City cherry company pleads guilty in marijuana case

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Brooklyn Cherry Business to Plead Guilty Over Pollution and Marijuana.

New York • A company that touts itself as one of the largest manufacturers of cocktail cherries in the United States and had a secret marijuana growing operation in its basement pleaded guilty on Tuesday to criminal and environmental charges.

A Red Hook-based maraschino cherry company has pleaded guilty to marijuana possession and illegally dumping chemical waste into the water, seven months after its owner killed himself during an inspection that unexpectedly revealed the massive pot growing operation. In addition to admitting its wrongdoing, the company, Dell’s Maraschino Cherries, will pay a $1.2 million settlement, including nearly $130,000 in cash that the Brooklyn district attorney’s investigators seized from the office of the owner, Arthur Mondella, and the sale price of a Rolls-Royce he had kept in the company’s garage. The company, whose website says it was founded in 1948 on family values and a passion for cherries, calls its cherries the crunchiest, tastiest and sweetest, perfect for cocktails, soft drinks, ice cream or desserts. The charges stem from a lengthy investigation that exposed late owner Arthur Mondella’s indoor pot farm and led to the cherry king’s suicide in a bathroom at the plant just as authorities uncovered the stash last February. Mondella shot himself in the head in February after officials, acting on a warrant to investigate the company’s dumping habits, uncovered his enormous subterranean growing operation behind a shoddily erected wall.

Some of that money has already been obtained through the seizure of $129,000 found in a factory safe and Mondella’s $150,000 Rolls Royce, sources added. Ultimately, the marijuana charges were limited to one count of marijuana possession in the first degree, the Times reports, though it remains unclear who else besides Mondella was involved.

Detectives working off a tip executed a search warrant at the company’s warehouse in the Red Hook neighborhood, looking for possible violations of the state’s environmental laws. Dell’s, which employees around 30 people, will be subject to weed-related inspections four times a year for the next three years. “This company polluted our sewer system, violating the law and their permits, in an attempt to save money,” Brooklyn district attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement. “This agreement holds them accountable for their unlawful conduct and also ensures that this plant won’t be used for other illegal operations.

During the raid, a detective smelled marijuana and later found an entrance to a 2,500-square-foot hidden room being used as a marijuana growing plant. Mondella offed himself on Feb. 24 as DA detectives and environmental officials raided Dell’s on environmental violations – but discovered the door to his hidden basement grow house. It’s a fair outcome that allows this family-run company and its employees to stay in business while securing necessary safeguards to protect the environment.” Dell’s has been on the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s radar for years, though their investigation came to a dramatic head during February’s ill-fated probe. But officials had charged the company did not appropriately monitor the acidity level. “The company is very, very pleased with this outcome,” attorney Michael Farkas said. “It’s a resolution that not only lets the company survive but to thrive.” Farkas said the company, which employs about 30 people, was working to find a way to finance the settlement. A spokesman for the Brooklyn DA told the Post that the deal was reached in an effort to keep the family-run company from being forced to shutter after nearly 70 years in business.

After asking investigators to summon his sister, who continues to work at the company, he told her to “take care of my kids.” Then he shot himself with the gun he wore strapped to his ankle. Mondella’s death, the company filed a notice of claim against the city asserting that investigators had used accusations of environmental violations as a pretext to search the factory for marijuana, and that they should have been aware that Mr. Yaniv said the time and effort investigators had spent on examining Dell’s environmental compliance bore out what the district attorney’s office has insisted all along: The illegal dumping was the investigators’ target from the first. Farkas said that the district attorney had refrained from treating Dell’s as harshly as it could have in settlement negotiations, not wanting to gut a local business. “The company very much appreciates the D.A.’s office’s willingness to consider all the factors involved here, not least of which being the dozens of people employed by Dell’s in the neighborhood and the fact that it’s a 70-plus year family business,” Mr. Farkas said. “Business has come back on track since the family overcame this horrible tragedy, and they’re looking forward to its continuing success.”

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