Akron will be featured in a "60 Minutes" report Sunday that focuses on illegal synthetic opioids coming from China.
Staff from the television program traveled to China to highlight the other end of the Akron fentanyl story that the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com has been reporting for years.
Among other things, "60 Minutes" tracked down a man accused of illegally shipping opiates to the United States. Some of those drugs wound up in Akron and were sold to Carrie Dobbins, 23, and Tom Rauh, 37, who fatally overdosed on fentanyl after taking the drug in separate incidents in March 2015.
An Akron man, Ryan Sumlin, had already been convicted of selling the China-made fentanyl to Dobbins. A federal judge sentenced Sumlin to life in prison and ordered him to pay for Dobbins' funeral.
In November, a Chinese national living in the United States was sentenced to 71 months in prison for his role in selling opioids, including those that killed Rauh.
Court records showed that when Bin Wang was laid off from his job as a chemist near Boston, he opened and invested in a series of companies, some of which sold fentanyl and other synthetic drugs online, court records said.
Federal authorities have accused two other Chinese nationals, Fujing Zheng, also known as Gordon Jin, and his father, Guanghua Zheng, of making and shipping fentanyl and 250 other drugs to at least 25 countries and 37 states.
In an excerpt provided by "60 Minutes," producer Robert Anderson confronted Guanghua Zheng in Shanghai and showed him a wanted poster with his picture. Guanghua Zheng was asked whether he is concerned the Chinese government may arrest him.
"The government has nothing to do with it," he replied.
Matt Cronin, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, is frustrated that the Chinese government isn't helping to stop the drugs from entering the United States.
“It is a fact that these synthetic opioids are responsible for the overwhelming increase in overdose deaths in the United States," he tells "60 Minutes." "And it is a fact that if the People’s Republic of China wanted to shut down the synthetic opioid industry, they could do so in a day.”
Rauh's father, James Rauh, agrees more needs to be done to crack down on the international drug trade. He was interviewed as part of the "60 Minutes" segment.
"We need to eliminate this deadly, global threat by raising awareness of the problem, and by putting pressure on the Chinese government to cease the manufacture and export of all illicit fentanyl produced within its boarders, as well as to retrieve and destroy current supplies that have been shipped to other countries," Rauh said in a prepared statement.
Locally, Akron police working with federal officials have followed packages of fentanyl and the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil shipped from China to homes — some vacant — and post office boxes throughout the area.
The most notorious case in Akron involved Donte and Audrey Gibson, a Kenmore couple accused of importing Chinese-made drugs and selling them across Northeast Ohio, court records say.
The Gibsons "brought huge quantities of deadly fentanyl and carfentanil into Akron, threatening the lives of so many of our neighbors, friends and family," U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said at the time. Their cases are ongoing in federal court.
One of those who apparently overdosed on Chinese drugs was the Gibsons' 6-year-old daughter.
Audrey Gibson told medical professionals trying to save the girl's life that she had eaten dog food. But Donte later speculated the girl — who was saved with naloxone — overdosed after walking barefoot across carpeting where some of the potent drugs had spilled, court records said.
In 2019, the number of opioid overdoses in Summit County has continued a gradual decline from recent years. During the last week — from April 19 to April 25 — 31 residents sought hospital emergency room help after overdoses.
But law enforcement continues following the trail of packages from China to Akron.
In February, authorities charged Donyea Nelson, 42, of Akron, with running a street pill-mill operation. Investigators said he was buying pill presses from China and using the equipment to make pills from fentanyl — also possibly coming from China — that looked exactly like prescription painkiller Percocet.
To watch the excerpt of the "60 Minutes" report, go to: www.cbsnews.com/news/how-did-enough-fentanyl-to-kill-every-man-woman-and-child-in-cleveland-reach-the-united-states-60-minutes/. "60 Minutes" is broadcast at 7 p.m. Sundays on WOIO (Channel 19).