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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 19, 2002

For Additional Information:
Joe Kilmer, Special Agent,
Public Information Officer
Office: 305-994-4837
Cellular: 305-345-6085

SEVEN SOUTH FLORIDA RESIDENTS ARRESTED IN CONJUNCTION WITH OPERATION WEBSLINGER

Today, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents together with Agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) announce the arrest of 7 individuals throughout South Florida as a result of a nationwide investigation involving the purchase of drugs via the Internet. The execution of numerous search warrants leading to the arrest of the defendants began yesterday and was accomplished with the assistance of numerous local and county police departments throughout South Florida:

Miami Beach Police Department
Miccosukee Police Department
West Palm Beach Police Department
Homestead Police Department
Bal Harbour Police Department
Broward County Sheriff's Office
Palm Beach County Police Department
North Palm Beach Police Department
Sunny Isles Police Department

The investigation, code named Operation Webslinger, is a multi-jurisdictional investigation which targeted the illegal Internet trafficking of the "date rape" drug, GHB, and its derivative drugs, GBL and 1, 4 Butanediol (1,4 BD). These substances are abused to produce euphoria, intoxication and hallucinogenic states, and for their alleged role as a muscle growth hormone. They are also used as "date rape" drugs, acting as central nervous system depressants, which cause drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, loss of inhibition, memory loss and visual disturbances. Higher doses of these substances will cause unconsciousness, seizures, severe respiratory depression, coma and even death.

This two-year investigation began as a result of increasing seizures of GBL and 1,4 BD. It represents law enforcement's most significant national operation targeting organizations trafficking in GHB, GBL, and 1,4 BD. Operation Webslinger is also the most significant enforcement effort targeting drug traffickers using the Internet to buy and sell dangerous drugs and chemicals. Arrests were made in over 80 cities across the United States and Canada beginning yesterday.

Operation Webslinger encompasses investigations in several major cities, to include St. Louis, MO and Buffalo, NY. These investigations targeted individuals and organizations supplying large quantities of GHB, GBL and/or 1,4 BD via the Internet. From these investigations, agents were able to develop leads that lead to the identification and arrest of individuals across the country involved in buying and selling these drugs. Drug seizures to date could have yielded in excess of 15 million dosage units.

Throughout South Florida, eight federal search warrants were executed. In addition to the arrests, law enforcement officers seized quantities of cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, MDMA, marijuana, steroids, xanax, and GBL.

Seven defendants were taken into custody. They were charged under Florida State Law with possession and/or Trafficking of GBL. They are identified as follows:

Michael ZARECZNY, age 32, of West Palm Beach, Florida
Michael RIOLO, age 31, of Coconut Creek, Florida
James WALSH, age 27, of Pompano Beach, Florida
Robert DOBSON, age 44, of West Palm Beach, Florida
John ENDE, age 47, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Alexis ATHINEOS, age 33, of North Palm Beach, Florida
Kevin FEUERLICHT, age 40, of Miami Beach, Florida

BACKGROUND

On March 14, 2000, Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate (GHB) became a Schedule I controlled substance pursuant to the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid, Date-Rape Drug Prevention Act. GHB which sells for about $10.00 per liquid dose, is distributed in clear liquid form and is often disguised in bottled water. Acting as a central nervous system stimulant, GHB's physical and psychological effects include euphoria, hallucinations, respiratory depression, loss of inhibition, memory loss, coma, and/or death. It is commonly referred to as: Grievous Bodily Harm, Liquid E, Georgia Home Boy, G, Easy Lay, Gamma 10, and Salty Water. DEA has documented 72 deaths attributable to GHB and its analogues. Project GHB, a non-profit anti-drug organization, claims to have documented over 240 deaths from GHB. Thousands of non-death overdoses and law enforcement encounters have been documented since 1990.

Gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL), similar in molecular structure to GHB, is similarly distributed and abused. GBL virtually converts to GHB once ingested in the body. Traffickers commonly sell GBL as GHB. Prior to Gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL) being designated as a List 1 chemical on February 18, 2000, it was openly sold as a body building supplement. In legitimate industries, GBL is used as an intermediate agent used in manufacturing industrial cleaners and solvents.

1,4 Butanediol is a GHB analogue that also converts to GHB in the body. Like GBL, 1,4 Butanediol is legitimately used as an industrial solvent and is currently not regulated. DEA investigations of 1,4 BD have increased significantly since GHB was designated a controlled substance and GBL became regulated as a listed chemical. Prior to these regulations, DEA uncovered numerous Websites that openly sold GBL as a bodybuilding supplement. After regulation, these same Websites changed their product names and began marketing 1,4 Butanediol as industrial cleaning products. These actions play a significant part in the prosecution of these companies and individuals when proving the human consumption element of the analog statutes.

Operation Webslinger was coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration's joint law enforcement program called the Special Operations Division, which is comprised of agents and analysts from DEA, FBI, USCS, IRS, as well as attorneys from the Department of Justice's Criminal Division.

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