The pot farm owned and operated by Arthur Mondella, the cherry magnate who killed himself on Tuesday, was reportedly among the largest ever discovered in New York City. The New York Times and New York Daily News report that the grow room—located in Dell's Maraschino Cherries Company's basement, behind a hidden door and down a ladder—spanned 2,500 square feet and could harvest up to 1,200 pot plants.
While the involvement of the factory's other employees remains unclear, investigators believe Mondella must have had at least some help setting up the complex operation, which included 120 growing lamps, dozens of strains of marijuana seeds, 50 books on horticulture, and an irrigation system.
"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," a law enforcement official told The New York Times. The same official said the farm was the largest investigators had ever seen in New York.
As for why Mondella would turn an apparently thriving business into a huge drug operation, authorities and his family remain baffled, though officials suspect a link to organized crime.
"The business was not doing poorly; the business was doing very well," Michael Farkas, the Mondella family's attorney, told the Times. "We were unaware of any major problems in Arthur's life. Somebody knows — but we're all waiting for answers here."