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Teen leader of Ohio drug ring imprisoned

LEBANON, Ohio — A teenager convicted of selling up to $20,000 worth of high-grade marijuana a month to high school students in southwestern Ohio was sentenced Monday to serve six months to three years in a juvenile prison by a judge who called him ‘‘a pretty fine young person that went down a bad trail.’’

Tyler Pagenstecher of Mason was taken into custody immediately after the hearing to be turned over to Ohio’s Department of Youth Services. The agency ultimately will decide how long the 18-year-old will be in prison, depending on his behavior.

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‘‘He’s not going home today,’’ Judge Thomas Lipps said, explaining that the charges against Pagenstecher were too serious for him to avoid prison time.

Authorities say Pagenstecher was one of the most prolific drug dealers in the Cincinnati area, a ‘‘little czar’’ in charge of six teenage lieutenants who helped him sell the marijuana to well-to-do students at two high schools.

Authorities believe Pagenstecher began selling the drugs when he was 15 and managed to stay under authorities’ radar for a long time by not selling marijuana at school, but largely out of his home, where he lived with his single mother and older brother.

In court Monday, Pagenstecher stood up and apologized.

‘‘I understood that I would get in trouble but not to the level or extent this has become, and I sincerely regret all of this,’’ said the pale, bespectacled, soft-spoken teen. ‘‘If I could take it all back, I would.’’

His mother, Daffney Pagenstecher, also spoke to the judge, saying her son ‘‘just thought he was using a recreational drug and selling it to his friends, and that was it.’’

Lipps expressed incredulity that Tyler Pagenstecher didn’t understand the seriousness of what he was doing and said all parents would want to see the person responsible for selling their child drugs to be punished, regardless of age.

He said he took into consideration the fact that Pagenstecher wasn’t violent, didn’t have weapons, was a good student, finished a drug-abuse program, and got a job at a restaurant. ‘‘You know, I think you’re probably a pretty fine young person that went down a bad trail here,’’ Lipps told Pagenstecher. ‘‘I do think there’s hope for you in the future.’’

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