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RESTAURATEUR CONVICTED IN POT CASE

A man reported to have been an owner or co-owner of Teak restaurant on Monmouth Street and other upscale eateries was convicted Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan of conspiracy to distribute more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana.

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Marc Munson, a former Holmdel resident whose age and current address were not disclosed, was the “head of the New York operation” in an elaborate smuggling scheme that involved the use of ‘decoy’ cars to deflect attention away from others used to haul the pot, federal authorities contend.

From 1997 into 2004, the alleged conspiracy generated huge profits, enabling Munson to become an owner or co-owner of Teak; of Rice, in Highlands; and Thai Elephant in Short Hills, the Asbury Park Press reports, citing court documents and trial evidence.

Munson’s current relationship to Teak could not be learned last night; a call to the general manager was not returned.

Munson, who lived in Brooklyn, East Hanover and Holmdel during the six-year conspiracy, faces 10 years to life in prison following his conviction. So does co-conspirator Paul Karkenny, a New York man who was convicted during the same three-week jury trial. They’re both scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 19.

Four others have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Two more alleged co-conspirators are at large, the feds say.

Munson and Karkenny were convicted of running a pot-smuggling operation that used fake race-car trailers to haul large loads of marijuana to the New York area, according to a press release issued by Michael Garcia, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Over the life of the conspiracy, Munson and Karkenny were said to have moved more than 50,000 pounds of pot to New York, Detroit and other metropolitan areas.

In cross-country hauls of pot ranging in size from 200 to 4,500 pounds, the feds say, Munson and others used SUVs, pickup trucks and even commercial carriers. Often, authorities alleged, they employed decoy cars to attract the attention of police — and distract them from trucks carrying pot.

They’d also use pairs of transporters to make it appear that a couple was moving cross-country.

Munson, feds say, used his profits to invest in expensive homes, real estate ventures and restaurants. The Press says he also bought an unidentified go-go bar.

Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times article on Teak from April 2005, when the restaurant was about a year old:

It used to be an Italian place called Bacchus. Melissa Long, a real-estate executive and restaurateur whose previous venture was Thai Elephant in Short Hills, bought into Bacchus as a partner, then took it over, closed it and reopened it with a menu more closely attuned to her native Thailand.

Here’s the Garcia news release: Download munson_sdny.pdf

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