RED HOOK — The family of the cherry factory owner who killed himself as investigators discovered an illegal pot farm at his Brooklyn business are locked in a bitter battle over his sweet $8.5 million fortune — even though locking horns could cost them $55,000 a month in fines and foreclosure on the property.
Arthur Mondella's daughter Dana Bentz has asked that the Brooklyn Surrogate's Court give her temporary administration of her dad's estate so that she can pay a $1 million criminal penalty to the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, get rid of his Rolls Royce, refinance a mortgage on the cherry factory and pay $142,000 in taxes.
But Yevgeniya Mondella, Arthur's second ex-wife and the mother of his youngest daughter, filed court papers late last month to block Bentz's appointment. Yevgeniya said in the filing that Bentz doesn't care about the well-being of her daughter, Antoinette, and has broken a promise to provide her with health insurance.
"Since [Arthur's] death, Bentz has not concerned herself whatsoever with the needs of her baby sister," Yevgeniya's lawyer, Victoria Beress, said in the Oct. 26 court filing.
Yevgeniya has also challenged Bentz's claim that Arthur's original will had been lost by a lawyer who helped draft it. She also claims that Bentz has been intentionally vague about all of her ex-husband's assets.
Arthur, 57, fatally shot himself at his business, Dell's Maraschino Cherries, on Feb. 24 when Brooklyn DA detectives smelled marijuana at his Red Hook factory and uncovered a 2,500-square-foot pot farm in the basement. The detectives had been at the property to investigate illegal-dumping allegations.
The company pleaded guilty in September to illegal possession of marijuana and polluting, agreeing to a $1.2 million settlement with the DA's office. Dell's must pay a $1 million fine and forfeit $130,000 in cash that investigators seized. The company must also sell Arthur's prized Rolls Royce.
Bentz's lawyer, Ted Parnese, said in an Oct. 30 filing that a $3.5 million mortgage on the Dell's property has been declared in partial default by the mortgage company. He said if Bentz isn't made temporary administrator of the estate, then the family will be unable to refinance the mortgage or settle the $1 million criminal fine.
Yevgeniya's challenge could take its toll on the estate if a court fight drags on, Parnese said. The interest on the current mortgage and the unpaid criminal penalty are incurring $55,000 per month in fines and interest, he said.
Parnese did not respond to a request for comment.
Beress also did not respond to a request for comment.