Akron drug dealers may be expanding their business during the evolving opioid crisis.
West Virginia officials this week announced they shut down a drug pipeline that ran between the Rubber City and that state’s capital, Charleston.
A federal grand jury Tuesday indicted Eugene Calvin Wells, 44, of West Akron, and two Charleston women in the case. Wells, investigators said, led a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, heroin and its powerful synthetic offshoot, fentanyl.
Court records don’t say where the drugs may have originated.
But Akron is clearly on West Virginia officials’ radar.
“Akron is playing a larger and larger role in drug trafficking in West Virginia,” Michael Stuart, the U.S. attorney overseeing the southern district of West Virginia, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail this week. “It’s causing real problems for the state, but we’re not going to tolerate the situation any longer.”
Wells isn’t the first Akronite to make drug news in West Virginia.
Last year, Bruce Lamar Griggs of Akron was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison in Huntington, W.Va.
Griggs, 23, was convicted of selling heroin laced with the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil. Authorities said the mixture he sold caused more than two dozen overdoses on a single day in Huntington.
“I have made some costly and stupid decisions,” Griggs told the court during his sentencing hearing.
Akron native William Hackney, 25, also faced charges in West Virginia last year. He was accused of selling blue-tinted opioids that caused two law enforcement officers to become sick after coming into contact with the street drugs.
In September, Hackney’s older brother, Spencer Hackney, 31, of Akron, was arrested in Huntington on felonious assault charges stemming from a shooting in Akron.
At the time, Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial told local television station WSAZ that Akron is a problem.
"Everyone is aware there's a group of individuals that are coming out of Akron dealing drugs," Dial said. "They seem to be a more dangerous younger group than the dealers from Detroit."
Federal officials’ most recent efforts to stop the flow of drugs from Akron to West Virginia appears to have started in July by targeting Akron’s Eugene Wells.
Court records show that agents from a West Virginia office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used a confidential source to buy methamphetamine from Wells.
On Sept. 28, agents executed a search warrant at a Charleston address where Wells and his co-defendants — Miranda Brandon and Sherry Gray, whose ages were not disclosed — were inside. There, agents found suspected fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine, court records show.
On the same day in Ohio, agents with the Cleveland DEA office executed a search warrant on Wells' residence in Akron. Wells has lived at various city addresses and it’s not clear in court records which one was searched, but agents found heroin and four firearms.
Wells is being represented by a federal public defender in West Virginia. A message left at the office Friday was not immediately returned.
U.S. Attorney Stuart said in a prepared statement that agents found enough fentanyl to kill nearly 290,000 people.
“I grew up with three ‘R’s’ — reading, writing and the road map to Akron,” Stuart said. “Now it’s time for reading, writing and the road map back to Akron. For Eugene Wells and his trafficking buddies, Akron is no longer an option.”
Street drugs, sales opportunities and dangers, however, continue to abound.
Between Nov. 2 through Nov. 8, 33 Summit County residents sought help in hospital emergency rooms after overdosing, according to the latest report from Summit County Public Health.
Also this week, ambulances and used naloxone devices littered a street in the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River after DEA officials and Cuyahoga County sheriff’s investigators were exposed to fentanyl at a house.
In all, 10 officials were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, along with two children — ages 4 and 6 months — who lived at the home, Beacon Journal partner News 5 Cleveland reported.