Family sent heroin-soaked posters to Ohio inmate
The inmate had sent step-by-step instructions to his family on how to saturate pieces of paper with narcotics
By Amanda Garrett
The Columbus Dispatch
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sexy pictures of curvaceous women in Donte Gibson’s federal prison cell hid a powerful secret — heroin.
Someone soaked printouts of the women in liquefied drugs, dried them and then delivered them to Gibson by U.S. mail or in person so the Akron man could continue trafficking drugs behind bars, federal prosecutors said.
Prison officials discovered the heroin-saturated images in October. Prosecutors publicly disclosed the scheme this month in court records before Gibson’s scheduled sentencing Tuesday for running a drug-trafficking organization that imported deadly carfentanil and fentanyl from China to sell on the streets of Northeast Ohio during the ongoing opioid crisis.
The sentencing Tuesday was postponed to 2020 after Gibson — who has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and faces at least 20 years in prison — requested a new attorney.
It’s not clear how much more time he may face for the heroin-soaked images in prison.
But prosecutors in court records paint a disturbing picture of how Gibson has manipulated his family to keep his drug organization alive.
Outside prison, his drug trafficking crew included his wife, his mother-in-law, one of his adult twin daughters and her boyfriend, court records show.
Another child, Gibson’s then-6-year-old daughter, wasn’t involved in the dealing, but overdosed at the family’s Kenmore house. Paramedics and staff at Akron Children’s Hospital used two doses of naloxone to save the child.
Inside prison — after Gibson and his crew were indicted — Gibson tried to recruit his other twin daughter, and possibly his sister, to help him deal heroin, prosecutors said in court records.
It apparently wasn’t hard to figure out Gibson might be up to no good after he was incarcerated.
Gibson literally dropped the first clue in August 2018 when his mobile phone hit the floor in front of a guard inside Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in Youngstown.
“NEOCC does not allow inmates to possess cell phones while incarcerated because it is understood that the vast majority of those who possess contraband cell phones do so in order to continue to engage in illegal activities, mostly drug distribution,” prosecutors said in court records.
Officials were apparently watching and listening to closely to Gibson after that.
In February 2019, they heard him explaining to his wife, Audrey Gibson, on a jail phone about how he could buy liquid drugs, spray them on paper and sell them in prison, court records show.
In May, during another jail phone conversation, Gibson asked his wife to find out what a particular corrections officer liked so they might recruit the officer to look the other way when they smuggled narcotic-laced paper into the prison for sale, court records show.
It’s unclear if the plan ever got off the ground because the same month, an NEOCC guard reported hearing Gibson talking on a mobile phone in his cell.
When confronted, Gibson surrendered the phone to guards. And when authorities searched his cell, they found three more cellphones hidden away.
The discovery apparently didn’t thwart Gibson’s plan.
On July 1, NEOCC staff examining outgoing prisoner mail noticed a letter being sent out of the prison from a “false detainee name,” court records show.
When officials opened the mail, prosecutors said they discovered Gibson was sending “hand wrote step-by-step instructions to (one of his twin daughters) on how to saturate pieces of paper with narcotics and mark the pages as if they contained ‘legal’ information in order to smuggle drugs into the facility so that he could sell them to other inmates.”
The handwriting matched other mail Gibson had sent, prosecutors said. And this letter was addressed to Gibson’s twin daughter in Barberton, the one who had not been caught up in the drug conspiracy that led to guilty pleas of Gibson and the other twin.
The handwritten instructions, which are part of court records, directed Gibson’s daughter to use a paint brush or a makeup spray bottle to “smother” sheets of 100% cotton paper with a drug concoction.
After the drug-soaked pages air-dried, she was to put them into a printer and use them to print out investment tips or real estate strategies or something that Gibson could presumably keep in his prison cell without drawing suspicion.
Each drug-soaked page could sell for $300 to $500 in prison, depending on the quality of the drugs, Gibson noted on the instructions.
Because NEOCC staff intercepted the letter, it appears the instructions never made it to Gibson’s daughter.
But on Oct. 3, a NEOCC officer noticed that Gibson’s cellmate received a strange piece of mail.
Inside, were three pictures printed on “off colored pieces of thick cotton paper,” prison records showed.
Prisons and jails across the country have been on heightened alert for just this kind of mail for several years following reports of drugs making it to inmates this way.
NEOCC tested the paper and discovered it contained heroin, prison records show.
When prison staff searched Gibson’s cell, they found two other envelopes with four more sheets of similar paper among his things. Each piece of paper, with curvaceous women on them, tested positive for heroin, records show.
At least one of the envelopes that contained the heroin-soak paper had a return address on Morningstar Drive in Akron.
Prison records show the address matched records for Gibson’s sister, who was on Gibson’s visitor’s list.
Court records did not make clear, however, whether Gibson’s sister was involved in the heroin-soaked papers or whether someone was just using her return address.
Outside of prison, Gibson and his wife, Audrey, quickly amassed a fortune dealing drugs, spending nearly $700,000 on Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton and other designer brands in less than two years at Saks Fifth Avenue and turning their small Kenmore home into the remodeled envy of the neighborhood.
Inside prison, however, drug dealing appears to be more difficult and less profitable.
But, prosecutors contend, that hasn’t stopped Gibson from trying.