More than 600 marijuana plants valued at $5,000 with a street value of $3 million were seized in the Warren County Task Force investigation. Provided
Written by Sheila McLaughlin and Paul McKibben
LEBANON, OH (Cincinnati.com) The clean-cut 17-year-old who loved skateboarding and played roller hockey much of his life didn't look the part.
But Warren County law enforcement officials say the Mason High School student headed up a $3 million drug ring and was suspected of selling about $20,000 in marijuana per month.
"He looks like somebody who would be in your church youth group," said David Fornshell, Warren County Prosecutor.
The former honor roll student allegedly had six current and former Mason High School students working under him to be a significant source of marijuana for students in Mason and Kings school districts, authorities said.
But he was smart enough not to deal on school grounds.
And he apparently was savvy enough to keep his business dealings from his mother, even though police said they found a wad of cash - $6,000 - in the teen's bedroom on Friday.
Mom's story, according to police: She didn't know.
"She's a single mom. If we can prove mom was involved in this, we would have charged her. Obviously, we can't or we would have," said Warren County Drug Task Force Commander John Burke. "We never bought marijuana with her present. We never had any conversation with her to indicate that she knew."
Seven adults were indicted in the case on Friday. Burke said they are still considering charges against the six underlings who allegedly were dealing drugs for the boy to local high school students.
Drug agents say they found more than $6,000 in cash in the teen's bedroom on Friday, following the indictments of seven adults who were involved in the drug gang.
The Enquirer is not identifying the teen because he is a juvenile and will not be tried as an adult. He is charged with two counts of felony drug trafficking and was expected to surrender to authorities on Monday.
Valerie Browning, superintendent of Kings Schools, which is adjacent to Mason's school system in Deerfield Township, said her district "was not part of any investigation and neither the sheriff's office nor the county prosecutor contacted us in regards to the investigation."
Fornshell said the case will be handled in juvenile court and there are no plans to try the 17-year-old as an adult. He's been dealing with police for months through and attorney and is expected to surrender on the charges today.
Charges against the other six current and former Mason students are still being considered, said John Burke, drug task force commander.
The year-long investigation netted several high profile targets who allegedly were growing very high-grade hydroponic marijuana out of houses in Norwood, Hamilton and a furniture warehouse in Blue Ash.
"We applaud the work of the Warren County Drug Taskforce and the Prosecutor's Office, and will continue to work with them to keep our youth safe," said Dr. Gail Kist-Kline, Mason City Schools Superintendent.
The seven adults who were indicted on various felony drug charges Friday are Gerald Peele 20, of Mason; Michael Lopez, 28, of Green Township; Stacy Lampe, 28, of Norwood; Cody Lampe, 31, of Norwood; Justin Baker, 31, of Hamilton; William Sparks, 57, of Hamilton; and Allen Honeycutt, 58, of Symmes Township.
More than 600 marijuana plants valued at $5,000 with a street value of $3 million were seized in the investigation.