Investigators arrived at Dell's Maraschino Cherries Tuesday morning because they suspected the factory was illegally dumping "hazardous materials" into the city sewer system.
For about five hours the owner cooperated fully, but during their search investigators said they smelled marijuana. That's when the owner made a tragic decision that no one saw coming, reports CBS News correspondent Vladimir Duthiers.
Sources said Dell's wasn't just in the business of sweet red cherries, it was also hiding some sticky, green plants.
Inside the family-run factory, tucked behind a fake wall, inspectors found 90 pounds of marijuana, hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed in suitcases and three luxury cars.
It was a false front -- an elaborate drug operation that seems like it could have played out in "Breaking Bad," where an industrial laundromat helped mask a meth laboratory.
Arthur Mondella, 57, represented the third generation of his family to run Dell's cherry company. Sources said after inspectors said they smelled marijuana, Mondella excused himself to his private bathroom.
He yelled to his sister: "Take care of my kids," and then fatally shot himself.
"Everybody loved him in the neighborhood. Everybody loved him. He was a good guy," one resident said.
Founded in 1948, Dell's is one of the largest maraschino cherry producers in the country. They process more than 14 million pounds of cherries every year and supply restaurants like TGI Friday's and Chick-fil-A.
The factory underwent a $5 million upgrade last year.
But on Wednesday, officers were still carrying boxes out of the factory as cherry jars sat empty on a stalled assembly line.
It's unclear if there will be any charges, but the factory had reportedly been on the radar of the city's Department of Environmental Protection for some time.