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.
Both were arrested in February 2018. Federal agents had investigated the pair since 2016 and knew of Donte Gibson as someone who had trafficked drugs since the early 2000s. They said the couple, who pleaded guilty to drug and money laundering conspiracy charges, used the money to bankroll their expensive taste.
The couple and people they worked with stashed their proceeds at homes and storage units and laundered money, including by creating companies and making lavish purchases, including cars, jewelry and handbags, the U.S. Attorney’s Office previously said.
One way they did this was through bank accounts opened for companies set up in their names. Among them was a company Audrey Gibson set up called Pound Cake Entertainment, which had a website featuring scantily clad photos of her that sold clothing and “one of a kind items,” prosecutors state. The website also offered access to a secret Snapchat account that showed her “being flirty or nasty depending on the day,” according to an indictment.
Audrey Gibson also opened a Saks Fifth Avenue store card and laundered money by making $208,504 in payments between April and December of last year, the indictment says. She also bought more than $686,000 in items from the store between July 2016 and February, including handbags from Burberry, Chanel and Gucci, Louis Vuitton items and Saint Laurent shoes, among others, prosecutors said.
In addition to the Gibsons, seven defendants – including Donte Gibson’s daughter Dontaysha Gibson and Audrey Gibson’s mother Lori Martin – pleaded guilty in the case. Some received prison, others probation.
Defendants agreed to forfeit more than $250,000 in assets during the case.
Prosecutors said the couple bought the synthetic opioids on the darknet and had them shipped to places around Akron and Canton. They had co-defendants open post office boxes throughout Northeast Ohio.
Members of the crew picked up the packages and brought them to Donte Gibson, who then cut the drugs with a health supplemental powder. He then gave the drugs to Dontaysha Gibson and others to sell in Akron and Lorain.
Angel Castillo, an associate at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beachwood, was charged in January with helping Audrey Gibson structure her cash payments so her purchases wouldn’t raise suspicion with the IRS.
Power synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil have helped fuel a nationwide opioid epidemic.
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.
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