An Akron man, who is accused — along with his wife — of running a lucrative drug operation that peddled fentanyl and carfentanil in Northeast Ohio, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to drug and money laundering charges … again.

Donte Gibson first pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Cleveland last September but later withdrew his plea because he wanted more time to consider the implications of a new federal law and how it could impact the amount of prison time he faced.

Gibson, 40, though, opted to again plead Wednesday to the same charges, which were conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and carfentanil and money laundering. Federal prosecutors have agreed to dismiss several other drug and money-laundering charges.

Gibson will be sentenced by Judge Patricia Gaughan at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 23.

“This defendant brought deadly opioids from China to Akron and posed a tremendous risk to our community,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said in an emailed statement.

Audrey Gibson, Donte’s wife, also pleaded guilty last September. Her sentencing was delayed until her husband’s case was settled and hasn’t yet been set.

The Gibsons were among nine people indicted in March 2018 who were accused of distributing more than 400 grams of fentanyl and 9.65 grams of carfentanil between May 2016 and February 2018.

Investigators say the couple purchased fentanyl and carfentanil from China over the internet and had it shipped to locations in the Akron area through the U.S. Postal Service. Other co-defendants picked up the packages containing the drugs that were shipped to post office boxes and brought them to the Gibsons’ Popham Street home in Akron, according to the indictment.

Donte Gibson cut the drugs with white powder, turning 70 or 80 grams of pure fentanyl or carfentanil into 7 kilograms of saleable product. The Gibsons gave the drugs to others who sold them in Akron and Lorain, according to the indictment.

Investigators claim the Gibsons created companies and bought automobiles, jewelry, handbags, furs, shoes and other items as a way to launder their drug profits — and to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Audrey Gibsons’ purchases included handbags from Burberry, Channel and Gucci, various Louis Vuitton items, Saint Laurent shoes, as well as cosmetics, fragrances and sunglasses, according to the indictment.

The Gibsons’ co-defendants have all been sentenced, with the penalties ranging from probation to 10 years in prison.

Donte Gibson faces between 10 years and life in prison. Federal prosecutors think the range should be between about 19 and 24 years.

Rhonda Kotnik, Gibson’s attorney, plans to argue a 10-year sentence would be appropriate. She said her client admits to his involvement but not to everything prosecutors claim he did. She said the conspiracy began while he was still in prison.

“His position is, ‘Punish me for what I did — not for what everybody else did,’ ” Kotnik said.

Gibson agreed to the forfeiture of the Popham Street home and cash and bitcoin that federal investigators seized.

One issue that hasn’t yet been decided is who will get the many luxury items also seized during the investigation.

Akron police, who helped with the case, are hoping to sell the items at an auction, with the proceeds going to police needs.

The Gibsons’ family members, however, claim some of the seized items belong to them. This dispute will be settled after the Gibsons are sentenced in a case pending in Summit County Common Pleas Court.

 

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.