"Take care of my kids," Arthur Mondella, 57, reportedly shouted before committing suicide

By Tara Fowler
February 25, 2015 03:30 PM

The owner of one of the country’s largest maraschino cherry suppliers fatally shot himself on Tuesday after authorities allegedly discovered his Brooklyn factory was a front for a drug operation.

Dell’s Maraschino Cherries owner Arthur Mondella, 57, was initially cooperative when investigators showed up at the facility at around 8 a.m., ABC News reports.

But he became nervous when authorities asked about some suspicious-looking shelving and excused himself to go to the bathroom, insiders told the New York Post.

It was there that Mondella turned the gun on himself. “Take care of my kids,” he shouted to his sister, who was standing outside the bathroom, before the fatal shot, a source told ABC News.

Shortly thereafter, investigators discovered about 80 lbs. of marijuana and hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed in a fake wall, according to the Post.

Police had received a tip that the factory was a front for growing pot, but when they couldn’t get a warrant to search it, they turned to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for help, the Post reports.

The D.A.’s office procured an administrative search warrant to look for signs that the factory was dumping hazardous waste into the sewer system, according to CBS2. Investigators from the D.A.’s office were joined by authorities from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the city Department of Environmental Protection for the raid.

Mondella had fallen on hard times and had been trying to boost his cherry business, the Post reports.

“Poor guy, in this day and age, you can do no jail time for marijuana,” a law enforcement source told the paper. “I don’t know why he would do that, unless there’s something worse down there.”

Mondella had a permit to carry the weapon, which he reportedly kept strapped to his ankle, a source told New York’s Daily News.

Insiders told the Post that investigators should have known to search Mondella for any weapons.

“If someone finds out that he had the gun on his belt and nobody took it from him, somebody s got a problem,” a source told the paper.

Mondella’s ex-wife was shocked by the news of his suicide. “His sister called me crying, saying that Arthur is dead,” she told the Post. “I’ve been 100 percent supported by him. I have no idea what I’m going to do now at this point.”

Speaking to the Daily News, she added: “He was a very good man.”

The Brooklyn District Attorney Office has not responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.