When Karen Dobner’s 19-year-old son died in 2011 from smoking a form of synthetic marijuana, she vowed to do everything in her power to stop everyone who contributed to his death — from the drug ring to the store owner who sold the deadly drugs to him.
After seven long years, the suburban mother finally got her wish.
On Jan. 26, Ruby Mohsin, the store Illinois owner who sold Max Dobner a product called iAroma — a type of synthetic marijuana made of mushroom leaves and sprayed with chemicals — was sentenced to two years in federal prison, CBS2 Chicago reports.
“I always felt like he was by my side helping me,” Dobner told CBS2 Chicago about her son. (Attempts to reach Dobner were not immediately successful.)
In June 2011, Max bought the synthetic marijuana, sold as “potpourri,” from Mohsin’s store, The Cigar Box, in a mall in Aurora, just outside of Chicago, and smoked it with a friend, the Chicago Tribune reports. After he started having hallucinations and a panic attack, he accidentally killed himself on June 4, 2011, when he drove his car at 100 mph and crashed into a house in Aurora after flying 80 feet in the air, CBS News reports.
His car hit the house so hard that the engine ended up in another room, the Chicago Tribune reports. Investigators could find no evidence that the teen tried to hit the brakes, according to the Tribune.
In Feb. 2017, Mohsin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute the synthetic drug, the Tribune reports. She faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. (Her attorney did not immediately return calls for comment.)
When the store owner spoke to Max and his friend, she allegedly said to them, ” ‘Would you like to try my new specials? I have new flavors,’” Dobner told CBS2 Chicago. “I don’t know what kind of mother sells drugs in the mall to kids.”
Dobner credits CBS2 Chicago with helping her in her quest for justice. After going undercover, the station’s investigative team revealed that months after the teen died, Moshin was still selling the drug, CBS2 Chicago reports.
Police also went undercover and bought the product from her, the outlet reports.
“She continued to sell, and that’s why she’s going to prison,” Dobner said.
Dobner also worked with attorney Shawn Collins, who sued others involved in the manufacturing, distribution and sale of the drug to her son.
“Through our investigation, we learned that there was literally a nationwide distribution network — North Carolina, Iowa, Texas, Louisiana,” Collins told CBS2 Chicago.
Besides Mohsin, three others connected to Max’s death have been indicted, the outlet reports.
In 2017, Mohammed Khan, who worked at the store, and Suliman Tanus, who bought the drugs from Kevin Seydel, a wholesaler in Iowa, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute synthetic drugs, the Tribune reports. They have not yet been sentenced.
Seydel pleaded guilty in December 2016 to intentionally distributing drugs in Illinois, North Carolina and Louisiana. He was sentenced in June to four years in prison followed by two years of supervised release and was fined $250,000, the Tribune reports.
Besides seeking justice for her son, Dobner says her other goal is to warn people about the dangers of synthetic marijuana, which can be 800 times stronger than real marijuana and especially dangerous because consumers don’t know what ingredients are used, CBS2 Chicago reports.
She doesn’t want anyone else to die and doesn’t want other parents to endure the pain she has, she says.
In a Feb. 2012 blog post, Dobner wrote, “On June 14, 2011 I got the call that all mothers fear. It was a beautiful day and I was at my friend’s house when my cell phone rang. A police officer told me that Max had a car accident and he had died. My whole world changed in that moment.
“Nothing about my life is the same. There’s nothing that could be worse.”
Calls to attorneys for Khan, Tanus and Seydel, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago and Collins were not immediately returned.