An Akron couple was sentenced Thursday for their roles in what prosecutors described as an operation that brought large amounts of fentanyl and carfentanil from China for sale in Northeast Ohio.
Donte Gibson, 41, was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. His wife Audrey Gibson, 36, was sentenced to 10 years, 10 months in prison. Chief U.S. District Judge Patricia Gaughan sentenced the pair by video. The Akron couple were arrested in February 2018 and pleaded guilty to drug and money laundering conspiracy charges.
“These two defendants were the leaders of a drug trafficking ring that used illegal weapons and brought large amounts of fentanyl and carfentanil into our neighborhoods, endangering the lives of so many in our community,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “Today’s sentencing reaffirms our commitment to keeping dangerous drugs and weapons off our streets.”
Donte and Audrey Gibson both pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and carfentanil. In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed to drop numerous other charges.
“Criminals and criminal organizations use money laundering as a way to inject their illicit proceeds into our local economies,” said Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.
“The laundering of illegal drug profits is as important and essential to drug traffickers as the very distribution of their illegal drugs. Without these illegal gains, the traffickers could not finance their organizations.”
“Fentanyl and carfentanil continue to be the deadliest illegal drugs that we are up against in the law enforcement community,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Vance Callender. “HSI has uniquely built a network of domestic and international law enforcement partnerships to bring consequences to criminal enterprises that operate on a global scale to profit from distributing this lethal poison in our local communities.”
Investigators found that between May 2016 and February 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Gibson purchased fentanyl and carfentanil from China over the internet. At the couple’s direction, the drugs shipped to various locations in the Akron-Canton area through the U.S. Postal Service. The Gibsons then had a group of seven co-conspirators to open post office boxes throughout the area, and used them to pick-up the packages for distribution and sale in Akron and Lorain.
Donte and Audrey Gibson were the last of nine co-defendants sentenced in this matter. All nine defendants were indicted on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 200 grams of carfentanil.
Previously sentenced on this matter were:
Lori E. Martin, age 59, mother of Audrey Gibson of Barberton was sentenced on January 28, 2019 on one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering to two years of probation.
Dontaysha S. Gibson, age 23, daughter of Donte and Audrey Gibson of Akron was sentenced on January 16, 2019 on one count each of conspiracy to possess and distribute fentanyl and carfentanil and money laundering to 15 months in prison.
Derrick A. Adams II, age 24, of Akron was sentenced on January 24, 2019 on one count each of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute fentanyl and carfentanil and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime to 120 months in prison.
Lisa A, Richardson, age, 56 of Akron was sentenced on February 28, 2019 on one count each of conspiracy to possess and distribute fentanyl and carfentanil and conspiracy to commit money laundering to 51 months in prison.
Ajarae C. Hisle, age 29, of Lorain was sentenced on February 19, 2019 on one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute fentanyl and carfentanil to one month in prison and seven months of home confinement.
Jamar Jackson, age 30, of Lorain was sentenced on February 1, 2019 on one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute fentanyl and carfentanil to 57 months in prison.
Garret R. Frantz, age 22, of North Canton was sentenced on January 28, 2019 on one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute fentanyl and carfentanil to one day in prison and eight months of home confinement.
The couple agreed to forfeit more than $250,000 in assets, two firearms, ammunition and their Akron home.
While agents investigated, Donte and Audrey Gibson’s six-year-old daughter overdosed on fentanyl that a burglar dropped on the floor during a heist at the couple’s home on Popham Street, court filings said. The couple was never charged because there were no witnesses and lab tests were unable to test for synthetic opioids in the child’s bloodstream, according to court records.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, which is comprised of agents and officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service and the Akron Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark S. Bennett and Danielle Asher.
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Samantha Witwer is a reporter at The Ohio Star.