FREEHOLD BOROUGH — A large-scale marijuana and THC distribution network, one that secretly converted popular candies into drug-laced edibles, was dismantled by authorities following a yearlong investigation, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni announced Tuesday.

Calling it one of the state's largest busts ever of THC/marijuana edibles, the prosecutor's office said the takedown resulted in charges against 24 men and women, most of whom live in the Garden State. Dubbed "Operation on the Ropes," the bust culminated with the execution of search warrants in Monmouth, Ocean and Bergen counties.

Officials seized 1,100 pounds of suspected marijuana, plus approximately 21,000 candy packages infused with suspected THC, the substance responsible for creating a marijuana high.

"The counterfeit candy looks nearly identical to what anyone could buy at any convenience store or supermarket," Gramiccioni told reporters. "We've seen a widespread rise in the production and distribution of such black market edibles that copy and misappropriate the appearance and packaging of real, legitimate candy."

Allegedly, network operators would purchase large amounts of regular candy from wholesalers, open the packages, then spray the candy with a concentrated formula of THC distillate.

"Once the THC dried on the candy it was repackaged as an illegal marijuana edibles product for distribution across New Jersey," Gramiccioni said.

Illegal treats seized during the investigation include "Stoner Patch" edibles, with packaging similar to that of Sour Patch Kids, and Nerd Ropes lined with THC-infused candies, among others.

The operation utilized a warehouse on Park Avenue in Manalpan and a hangar at Monmouth Executive Airport in Wall for production and storage of the illegal goods, the prosecutor's office said.

Officials also seized over 6,000 flavored THC vape cartridges, along with more than $1 million cash, more than $10 million in assets and 21 high-end exotic vehicles, the office said.

"I haven't seen a case like this in my 33-year career," said Monmouth County Chief of Detectives John McCabe.

It's the MCPO's belief that the illegal enterprise was running for years preceding their investigation.

"And we'll continue to unwrap that," Gramiccioni said. "There's a historical investigation that will ensue now that this takedown occurred, and we'll see how far back that takes us."

Dylon Addvensky, 27, of Freehold Borough, has been charged as the leader of the network, which allegedly also had a presence in New York and California. As of late Tuesday, one California man remains at-large and is considered a fugitive.

The list of New Jersey defendants includes residents of Colts Neck, Freehold Township and Borough, Lodi, Jackson, Manalapan, Howell, Riverdale, Point Pleasant Beach, Voorhees, Egg Harbor Township, Greenwich, Brick

All defendants have been released on bail conditions, pending resolution of the charges filed against them, Gramiccioni said.

Eric L. Karlewicz, aka Anthony Mazza 40, of Colts Neck, is charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana in excess of 25 pounds, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana in excess of 50 grams

Nicco C. Romanowski, 27, of Freehold Township, second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana in excess of 25 pounds, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana in excess of 50 grams.

Anthony Dalessandro, 30, of Los Angeles, California, is charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree possession of marijuana and/or hashish with Intent to Distribute, first-degree maintaining and operating a facility for the production of marijuana, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 50 Grams. D’Alessandro remains at-large and is considered a fugitive from justice.

Ariel Baez, 45, of Lodi, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana in excess of 25 pounds, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana in excess of 50 grams.

Mathew R. Caracappa, 24, of Freehold Township, second-degree Conspiracy, first-degree possession of marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree Knowingly maintaining and operating a facility for the production of marijuana and/or Hashish, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 50 Grams.

Lawrence A. Cella, 28, of Jackson Township, is charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana and/or Hashish, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish, first-degree maintaining and operating a facility for the production of marijuana and hashish, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana and/or hashish.

Richard C. Chamas, 43, of Jackson Township, is charged with a disorderly persons offense of Obstruction of the lawful arrest of Paul G. Hobbs, who is listed below.

Lee D’Avanzo, 52, of Staten Island, New York, is charged with fourth-degree conspiracy to Possess marijuana, fourth-degree possession of marijuana in excess of 50 grams.

Nicholas A. D’Ambrosio, 28, of Manalapan, third-degree possession of cocaine and a disorderly persons offenses of possession of marijuana under 50 grams.

Alfonse D’Ambrosio, 26, of Howell Township, is charged with third-degree possession of Anabolic Steroids, fourth-degree Resisting Arrest, fourth-degree possession of Examestane without a prescription,

Angelynn J. Fecso, of Colts Neck, second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana in excess of 25 pounds, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana in excess of 50 grams.

Matthew V. Filosa, 28, of Freehold Borough, is charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree maintaining and operating a facility for the production of marijuana and/or hashish fourth-degree possession of marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 50 grams.

Paul G. Hobbs, 27, of Jackson Township, is charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree maintaining and operating a facility for the production of marijuana and/or hashish fourth-degree possession of marijuana in excess of 50 grams.

Ryan D. Hult, 39, of Riverdale in Morris County, is charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 25 pounds, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 50 grams.

Jason M. Lambros, 21, of Point Pleasant Beach, is charged with disorderly persons offenses of possession of marijuana under 50 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Joseph A. Mari, 28, of Voorhees Township in Camden County, is charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana and Hashish, second-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana and hashish.

Gianna P. Mazzone, 23, of Egg Harbor Township, is charged with third-degree possession of cocaine and a disorderly persons offenses of possession of marijuana under 50 grams.

John T. Page, 25, of the Mickleton section of Greenwich Township in Gloucester County, is charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana and Hashish, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish, first-degree maintaining and operating a facility for the production of marijuana and hashish, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana and hashish.

Hannah R. Olstein, 25, Freehold Township, is charged with fourth-degree possession of marijuana under 50 grams and a disorderly persons offense of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Daniel J. Riley, 25, of Brick Township, second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 25 pounds, first-degree maintaining and operating a facility for the production of marijuana, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana and/or hashish in excess of 50 grams

Kevin M. Shields, 31, of Jackson Township, is charged with second-degree conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish, first-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana and hashish, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana and hashish.

Alexa L. Stimpfel, 27, of Freehold Borough, is charged with fourth-degree possession of marijuana under 50 grams.

Matthew C. Tracy, 27, of Jackson Township, is charged with fourth-degree conspiracy to possess marijuana and hashish, and fourth-degree possession of marijuana and hashish.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.