John Wolf, a dentist in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, is well known in the neighborhood — not only for his popular, light-filled offices, but also for his AIDS activism. He studied the disease in dentistry school, according to his Google profile, and as a practicing dentist in the 1980s he brought, and won, a prominent lawsuit against a landlord who did not want him to treat patients with AIDS.
On Friday, federal authorities painted a darker picture of Dr. Wolf: They arrested him at his West Village residence on charges that he had done dental work for a drug dealer in exchange for methamphetamine, and that he possessed child pornography videos.
A criminal complaint prosecutors filed also states that he is H.I.V.-positive and that, according to an informer, he said he had punctured holes in condoms “in an intentional attempt to spread the H.I.V. to his sexual partners.”
Neighborhood residents and one of Dr. Wolf’s brothers, Robert Wolf, said they were shocked at the allegations. Even federal prosecutors referred in a memorandum to Dr. Wolf’s life having a “bizarre duality.”
Dr. Wolf, 59, moved to New York from Michigan decades ago, according to Robert Wolf, who was reached by phone on Friday. He attended college and dental school in the city, and lives with his husband in the West Village, his Google profile says. The partner has worked as an administrator at the dental practice, according to court papers. Dr. Wolf wrote in the Google profile about his love for bicycling, his Chihuahuas and singing. A video posted on his profile page that was filmed in 1985 shows him singing in a gay men’s chorus and discussing AIDS and homophobia.
Dr. Wolf appeared in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Friday. He is charged with conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it, and with possession and distribution of child pornography. Asked by Robert M. Levy, a federal magistrate judge, if he understood the charges in the complaint, Dr. Wolf said, “I think so.”
After searching Dr. Wolf’s home and office on Friday morning, federal agents found methamphetamine and a flash drive filled with 246 files, mostly child pornography, according to a memorandum filed by prosecutors. He admitted to possessing child pornography, “denied having sex with minors and indicated he was unwilling to discuss his drug use or distribution or whether he had drugged anyone unwillingly during sex,” according to the memorandum.
Dr. Wolf’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said after his client’s initial court appearance: “He was woken up at 5 o’clock in the morning, and woke up into a day where his life is going to be completely different. These are charges that are very hard to weather, and I think he’s understandably shaken.”
Federal authorities said they began looking at Dr. Wolf as part of a standard drug case.
“Drug investigations have taken us down dark roads before, but nothing darker than the office practices of Dr. Wolf,” James J. Hunt, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York division, said in a statement.
A drug dealer arrested at Kennedy International Airport in March told the authorities that he had been swapping methamphetamine for Dr. Wolf’s dentistry, according to a complaint filed by Aaron Spivack, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The dealer, who was charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics, is cooperating with the government in the hopes of leniency.
The dealer also said that Dr. Wolf had shown him videos “of infants and toddlers being sexually abused by adults,” including images of infants and toddlers being raped by men, according to the complaint.
Dr. Wolf was arrested Friday at his apartment building on Charles Street in the West Village. Credit Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times
According to the dealer’s version in the complaint, Dr. Wolf also told him “that he was actively involved in underground sex parties at various locations in New York City, including in Brooklyn, where participants would engage in sexual intercourse with animals.”
In October and earlier this month, the dealer made recordings of Dr. Wolf for the government. In those, according to the complaint, the dentist discussed having sex with animals; said he continued to use and hand out drugs; said he continued to poke holes in condoms during sexual encounters; and discussed drugging an adult man with a “slam of K” before sexually assaulting him, referring, apparently, to ketamine, a drug used illegally as a hallucinogenic.
The drug dealer then offered to introduce Dr. Wolf to his “roommate,” saying that the roommate was interested in child pornography as well. The “roommate” was an undercover F.B.I. agent.
The three met at Dr. Wolf’s office in Chelsea. Last week, the undercover agent recorded Dr. Wolf saying he used the basement for sex parties. Dr. Wolf then plugged in a flash drive and showed the agent about 35 minutes of child pornography, the complaint said.
As recently as Thursday, according to the memorandum, the undercover agent recorded Dr. Wolf. In that recording, Dr. Wolf said he had given drugs to “willing and unwilling adults during drug-fueled sex parties,” said it would be “hot” if he and the agent abused children together, and talked about how they might arrange that, among other things.
Robert Risko, an artist who lives near Dr. Wolf’s office, said the office environment was “wacky,” and “loose, friendly, fun.”
“He has a huge clientele because people like him,” Mr. Risko said.
Robert Wolf, who lives in Tennessee, said he was “absolutely floored” by the accusations. He said he did not know of any drug or addiction problems in his brother’s past.
In court, Moira Kim Penza, an assistant United States attorney, cited the “safety of the community” and the “overwhelming evidence in this case” as she asked Judge Levy to hold Dr. Wolf without bail. The judge set a hearing for Tuesday to discuss bail.
At Dr. Wolf’s office on Friday morning, a man at the front desk said that Dr. Wolf was not in, but that two other dentists were still seeing patients. He declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the press.