If you expect to inherit assets from a successful parent, hope that they do not have a double life that involves criminal behavior. Property used to commit a crime or assets purchased with the profits of a criminal act are subject to civil forfeiture by government officials. If the person is deceased, their estate is vulnerable.
Arthur Mondella was a successful and colorful character. Heir to a family business founded in 1948, Dell’s Maraschino Cherries, Arthur was known for a larger-than-life personality and all the trappings of success The company generated annual revenues of approximately $20 million. But that was not, as it turned out, the sole source of funding for his extravagant lifestyle.
While investigators were looking into an unrelated matter at his Brooklyn factory, they noticed a strong smell of marijuana. This led them to discover that some shelving hid an entrance to the basement, where Mondella had set up an illegal marijuana growing operation. Rather than face criminal charges for his activities, Mondella committed suicide. He left his estate, including the cherry business, to his three daughters and sister. Each received a share.
According to DNAInfo, in "DA Eyes $8.5M Estate of Maraschino Mogul Who Killed Himself After Pot Bust," the Brooklyn District Attorney whose office discovered the marijuana is seeking to have some of the estate forfeited to it. It is not currently known how much of the estate the district attorney will seek in a civil forfeiture action.
Nevertheless, it has the potential to be quite substantial and cause disruption to the cherry business. The property used to grow the marijuana was the same property used to produce the cherries, and so may be subject to civil forfeiture.
For now, the lesson to be learned from this case is that if you want your family to inherit your legitimate business, do not complicate your estate by running an illegal enterprise on the side. In fact, let’s just make a bright-line rule not to run illegal enterprises all together.
Reference: DNAinfo (August 24, 2015) "DA Eyes $8.5M Estate of Maraschino Mogul Who Killed Himself After Pot Bust."