Most teenagers earn minimum wage in their after-school jobs. According to police, 17-year-old Tyler Pagenstecher of Mason, Ohio, has been hauling in a whole lot more. A grand jury has indicted the clean-cut teen on charges that he ran a multi-million-dollar drug-dealing ring for several years during high school. Could a kid really hide such a massive criminal enterprise from his mom and teachers for so long? Here, a brief guide:
How big was this alleged pot operation?
Police estimate that Pagenstecher's drug ring was selling about $20,000 worth of marijuana per month. Investigators confiscated more than 600 high-grade hydroponic marijuana plants being grown in two houses and a furniture warehouse. They believe the street value of that much marijuana is about $3 million.
What was the teenager's alleged role?
Undercover investigators say Tyler, a former honor roll student, had six current and former students from Mason High School working under him, and served as the primary pot source for students in the school district, and as major source in more schools nearby. "If you were a Mason High School student and you were purchasing marijuana," says John Burke of the Warren County Drug Task Force, chances are it was from Tyler. Police also arrested seven adults who allegedly grew the marijuana, which they say Tyler bought a pound at a time. His operation, investigators say, operated smoothly for three years. The teenager's lawyer said nobody in the family would be commenting on the case.
How could this go unnoticed for so long?
Police say no one involved in the drug ring sold pot on school grounds, allowing them to stay out of sight of teachers, counselors, and administrators. Although investigators found $6,000 in cash in Tyler's room, their undercover buyers never found any indication that his mother, a single mom, knew what her son was up to. "He looks like someone that would be in your church youth group," says prosecutor David Fornshell. "He looks like somebody that would be on student council."
What tipped off police?
Tyler had a reputation among his peers for having a ready supply of high-grade pot for $350 to $400 an ounce. Undercover drug agents heard the reports, and last August arranged a buy. By that time, police say, the drug dealing had been going on for two years. From there, the investigation continued, as the undercover agents identified the teen's alleged supplier and, eventually, those charged with growing his supply.
What happens next?
Tyler was three months shy of his 18th birthday when he was charged. That means he won't be tried as an adult, so he'll face up to three years in a juvenile detention center if convicted on the two felony drug trafficking counts he faces.