By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
But for Dobre, the demise of his lucrative online enterprise may be the least of his worries. In fact, he is probably unaware that his Web site has been unplugged. And that is because there is no Internet access from the George R. Vierno Center on Rikers Island, where Dobre is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail. He has been charged by the Queens district attorney with 70 counts of possessing child pornography and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, in this case his son Alexander. As a result of Dobre's arrest, the boy has been placed in foster care.
Richard Rosenberg, Dobre's lawyer, said that his client would contest any charges that his GHB sales were illegal. As for the child pornography counts, the attorney acknowleged that the material was discovered in a "private area" used by Dobre, but claimed that the Flushing residence was "shared by many people." Dobre has rented rooms in the house to a succession of boarders.
According to a federal search warrant application, Dobre did not attempt to cloak his GHB operation from law enforcement officials. When his probation officer visited his home last yearhe was sentenced to three years probation for his 1996 federal convictionDobre gave officer Nella Yelenovic a tour of his operation, showing her his computer setup. In Dobre's bedroom, Yelenovic noticed chemicals in powder and liquid form as well as bottles and labels used to package the GHB kits.
Stewart Magee, who heads the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations, said that the agency has "recognized GHB as a very serious problem" that poses a "clear public-health risk." He added that FDA agents are now closely monitoring GHB-oriented Web sites, since "the Internet seems to be the marketing tool of choice for the GHB producers."
Despite the FDA restrictions, Dobre appeared convinced that he was operating within the law. In a recent story in Student.com, an online magazine, Dobre assured reporter Christopher Tennant that while some states have outlawed the drug's sale, "the federal government has no laws on GHB and has only made a proclamation. So federally, I'm in the clear."
After graduating from Brooklyn Tech in 1970, Dobre attended Polytechnic University for three years before dropping out. He could not finish his studies, he once told investigators, because he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a malady reportedly triggered by a deadly May 1970 train accident.
Investigators point to a March 1997 episode involving Dobre and neighbor Louis Mesticky, now 86, as illustrative of the felon's bizarre character. When Mesticky's dog Kayo disappeared one day, he posted "Missing" notices around his neighborhood. He was initially relieved when Dobre called saying he had found Kayo. But he was shocked when, after offering Dobre an $18 reward, the supposed Good Samaritan demanded $200 or it was curtains for Kayo. Dobre was arrested for strong-arming the old man, though the dognapping charges were eventually dropped.