DOJ Announces News Cases In PA And OH Against Couples Selling Counterfeit Drugs and Fentanyl

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced indictments in separate counterfeiting and fentanyl cases against couples from Pennsylvania and Ohio:

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced charges against Francisco Perez and Nadia Moronta Pena of Hazleton, Pennsylvania for conspiring to distribute counterfeit 30-milligram oxycodone pills. According to the complaint, an undercover agent purchased 1,000 pills from Perez in Paterson, New Jersey on January 23, 2018, and subsequent lab tests revealed the pills to be a combination of Tramadol, a Schedule IV synthetic opioid, and heroin.  The same agent met with Perez again on February 7, 2018 to purchase an additional 40,000 pills. When Perez motioned to Pena to bring the bag that contained the pills over, both were arrested with law enforcement recovering an additional 20,000 pills that physically appeared the same as the pills sold by one of the defendants in January.

A search of their home in Hazleton turned up numerous other pills, approximately one kilogram of a powdery substance believed to be heroin, pill-press materials, and a box containing several bottles of liquid labeled “Fentanyl.” Special Agents with the Newark Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) DEA Scranton Resident Office, the Hazleton Police Department, and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office all were involved in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Wangenheim of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force/Narcotics Unit in Newark is prosecuting the case.

In DOJ’s Northern Ohio District, indictments were made public against nine individuals for allegedly conspiring to bring large quantities of fentanyl and carfentanil into the U.S. from China and to then sell the drugs in the Akron and Lorain areas. Statements made in court alleged that Donte and Audrey Gibson of Akron were the individuals in charge of the operation, ordering the drugs from China and having them sent to P.O. Boxes around the area. The indictment charged all nine defendants with intent to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl and at least 9.65 grams of carfentanil. Just 400 grams of fentanyl would make enough fatal doses to kill over half of Akron’s population.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the Gibsons were already known to federal authorities when Audrey Gibson called 911 almost one year ago to report that her six-year-old daughter was ill after supposedly eating dog food. Emergency responders revived the girl using naloxone, a drug whose only purpose is to reverse opioid overdoses. Federal authorities suspected the couple of running the Ohio ring since 2016 and eleven months later came calling. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Safe Streets Task Force, which is composed of agents and officers from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service, and the Akron Police Department, investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark S. Bennett is prosecuting the case.