RED HOOK — The owner of Dell's Maraschino Cherries, who killed himself when investigators discovered a secret pot farm at his Brooklyn factory, wanted his $8.5 million estate to go to his family — but that plan may have soured.
Cherry king Arthur Mondella left his three daughters and his sister each a stake of 20 percent or more in his lucrative business, according to a will filed on Aug. 13 in Brooklyn Surrogate's Court.
The filing shows that the properties he owned account for $8 million of his estate, though it doesn't itemize them individually. Presumably his Red Hook cherry company, which reportedly has $20 million in annual revenue, is the most valuable property.
But because Mondella led a double life as a marijuana grower, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office may take a bite out of his cherry empire.
The DA's office, whose investigators uncovered the illegal activity, has plans to seize some of the company's assets through a civil forfeiture proceeding.
"This matter is still under ongoing investigation," a DA spokesman told DNAinfo New York. "We seek forfeiture of funds obtained through criminal acts whenever appropriate and will do so in this case."
Mondella, 57, fatally shot himself on Feb. 24 when DA investigators detected the whiff of marijuana at the Red Hook factory while looking into allegations of illegal dumping.
The potent scent and a flimsy wall of shelves led to the discovery of a 2,500-square-foot pot farm hidden in the factory's basement.
A law enforcement source said that since Mondella is dead, DA investigators have been seeking a resolution with the corporation over seizing assets.
Dana Bentz, one of Mondella's daughters who on her Facebook page lists herself as a vice-president of finance and accounting at Dell's, declined to comment when reached at the business on Friday.
Bentz, who was named as the executor of Mondella's estate, said that the family business — which started 67 years ago — is still up and running.
Her lawyer, Sean O'Sullivan, did not return a request for comment.
Mondella, who was known for carrying thousands of dollars in cash and keeping a gun strapped to his ankle, led a lavish lifestyle that included a yacht and expensive cars. Aside from the pot, investigators found a Porsche, a Rolls-Royce and a Harley Davidson motorcycle parked behind a secret entrance in the factory's basement.
Mondella's will also states that, aside from the business, the remainder of his fortune should be divvied up equally among his three children.
The will came with a complication.
The version that was filed with the court is a copy of the original.
Scott Bernstein, a New Jersey lawyer who helped Mondella draft it, submitted an accompanying affidavit saying he had been keeping the original in his office files, but had lost it.
In the affidavit, he swears that the will filed with the court is an accurate copy of the original.
Bernstein declined to comment.