Saturday, February 15, 2003

Drug raid nets four juveniles

Cops say they bought marijuana at boys' home

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - Four teen-age boys, including two brothers, were being held Friday in the Warren County Juvenile Detention Center , charged with drug trafficking in what authorities described as a mid-level operation that catered to high school students in Lebanon and beyond.

County drug task force officials said they found more than a pound of marijuana in a basement safe, 5.4 grams of cocaine, $1,300 in cash, and psilocybin, or hallucinogenic, mushrooms growing on the dining room table when they raided the four-bedroom home on Revere's Run Drive at 3:15 p.m. Thursday.Police also confiscated four vehicles, 50 rounds of .32-caliber ammunition, a starter pistol and a handgun that was altered so it could shoot only blanks. Authorities said some of the boys were seen wearing the guns tucked in their waistbands at recent teen parties.

The search followed a three-month investigation by the Warren-Clinton Drug and Strategic Operations Task Force. Commander John Burke said agents made several buys of one-ounce bags of marijuana from the 16- and 17-year-old boys, paying about $225 apiece.

"There was a high volume of marijuana being sold from the house considering their age. They were selling to kids their own age," Burke said, adding that the teens bought their drugs from sources in the Lebanon area. One of them recently was arrested by an agency outside Warren County, he said.

The task force began investigating the alleged drug ring after receiving a tip and neighbor complaints about the volume of teen visitors at the house, Burke said.

Lebanon police said they have received their share of complaints about the house.

Assistant Chief Bob Hawley said the house has been the target of 23 complaints since the family moved there in summer 2001.

The calls involved complaints about barking dogs, loud music, truancy, people shooting paintballs at one another or firing BB guns, and the teens riding quad-runners on the street. There did not appear to be anything drug-related, he said.

Neighbors in the upper middle-class subdivision said they were surprised by the drug arrests.

"This is a wonderful neighborhood. You see people walking up and down the streets, and everyone says hello to you. We've got a lot of retired people, a lot of young families," said Colleen Szekeresh, who moved into the neighborhood two years ago.

"It is a shock that something like that was happening under our nose, and we didn't know it."

The boys' mother was in Dayton, Ohio, when police served the search warrant at the two-story four-bedroom home. Burke said she could face charges, and questioned what she knew about the illicit activity at her home, especially since drugs were being grown on her dining room table.

"She admitted she knew they were involved in usage, but not for sale," Burke said.

The mother had little to say when reached at her home on Friday. The Enquirer is not naming her because she has not been charged and because her sons are charged as juveniles.

"I'd really rather it not be in the news, period. So there isn't much I have to comment on," the woman said.

Lebanon school officials said two of the boys arrested Thursday attended the high school last year.

According to high school Principal Sam Ison, two assistant principals aided police in the investigation of the two former students. No part of the investigation included activities at the high school or its students this school year, he said.

"We always work closely with law enforcement. Our goal is to put a stop to it from coming anywhere near our school," Ison said.

Burke said the brothers apparently were school dropouts because they were at home all hours of the day when agents arranged drug purchases. One of the other boys attended the Warren County Career Center, he said.

Juvenile Court officials said the four teens will be held until at least Tuesday to allow time to evaluate them and assess their risk to the community.

Michael D. Clark contributed to this report.


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