Police bust drug ring allegedly led by 17-year-old Mason High School student
Sarah Beth Hensley, WCPO Digital , Scott Wegener, firstname.lastname@example.org , Shannon Kettler, Shannon.Kettler@wcpo.com , Tom McKee, email@example.com
8:18 AM, Jul 16, 2012
3:42 PM, Jul 18, 2012
LEBANON, Ohio - A 17-year-old Mason High School student has been charged with several counts of drug trafficking after allegedly spearheading a local pot ring, and employing several other Mason High School students in the process.
The 17-year-old turned himself in to Warren County Juvenile Detention personnel Tuesday morning. He was released and has a court date scheduled for July 31 at 4 p.m.
Police said the 17-year-old, whose identity 9 News will not disclose because of his age, led them to a $3 million marijuana growing operation involving seven adults.
"If you were a Mason High School student and you were purchasing marijuana, there was a huge chance that it was based from him," said John Burke of the Warren County Drug Task Force.
Authorities emphasize that none of the pot appeared to have been sold on school property.
Gerald Peele, Michael Lopez, Stacy Lampe, Cody Lampe, Justin Baker, William Sparks and Allen Honeycutt were indicted Friday on a total of 46 separate felony charges ranging from trafficking and cultivation to endangering children and possession of criminal tools.
Deputies arrested the majority of the suspects on Monday with the exception of Lopez and Baker. Officials on Tuesday said Baker was in police custody and that Lopez remains on the run.
Those in custody were arraigned in Warren County Common Pleas Court Wednesday afternoon. All pleaded not guilty.
Hundreds of marijuana plants were discovered in hydroponic grow-houses in Norwood and Blue Ash.
For about a year, the Warren County Drug Task Force had been investigating the trafficking of high-grade marijuana being sold to students at Mason and King Mills high schools, which they say they traced to the 17-year-old. When officials searched the boy's house, they found more than $6,000 in cash in his bedroom at his parents' house.
As part of the investigation, task force members searched locations in Blue Ash, Norwood and Hamilton where they seized more than 600 hydroponic high grade marijuana plants .
Officials with the Warren County Drug Task Force say the street value from the pot was $5,000 a pound.
They seized thousands of dollars in grow equipment as well.
Authorities valued the drug operation at more than $3 million and say they believe the 17-year-old was grossing more than $20,000 a month.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell says the teen appeared to be a the typical boy-next-door, and the arrests should send a signal to parents everywhere. "It should encourage parents to... understand what exactly [their] kids are involved in," he said.
"You might have a typical ounce of marijuana going for $100 and we've got high-grade marijuana going for $350 to $400 an ounce being sold by a 15 or 16-year-old kid," added Fornshell. "That tends to get the attention of people who work in this field because it's out of the norm. You don't typically see somebody who is that young selling that expensive and that high grade of marijuana."
ABC News obtained home video that shows the teen skateboarding, an activity they said he enjoyed doing along with keeping up with friends on Facebook.
"Clearly he is a very intelligent individual and he was somebody who was operating a major drug organization as a 15-, 16-year-old student," said Fornshell. "He clearly has some intelligence but certainly misguided."