Seized luxury items prompt legal tug-of-war


By Amanda Garrett - The Akron Beacon Journal (TNS)



AKRON — Audrey Gibson wants her Gucci back.

And her Chanel, Fendi and Louis Vuitton.

Federal prosecutors contend the high-end loot was purchased with the proceeds from a drug operation that peddled fentanyl and carfentanil on the streets of Northeast Ohio.

In September, Gibson cut a deal in the case — which also involves her husband, parents and others — pleading guilty to two conspiracy charges for the possession and distribution of synthetic opiates and money laundering.

Her attorney filed paperwork Friday in federal court aiming to retrieve Gibson’s scores of designer handbags, sunglasses, shoes and other goods seized during the investigation.

The items, the filing said, are Gibson’s personal property and not part of the federal plea agreement, details of which are not part of the public filing.

But Akron police — who were assisted by federal investigators in the Gibson case — hope to sell the designer goods at a public auction and use the proceeds for police needs.

Summit County prosecutors went to state court last year to begin the process.

Akron Police Lt. David Garro said Friday he doubts Gibson will regain her designer goods.

Garro, who runs narcotics investigations in the city, said Gibson bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items during a time when neither she nor her husband showed any legitimate income. All of the items, for now, are in police custody.

A state judge, not a federal judge, will decide what happens to the items, the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office said Friday. But a ruling isn’t expected until Gibson is sentenced, which is scheduled for later this month.

Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, asked a federal judge this week to approve the forfeiture of other items seized in the Gibson investigation, including:

• Nearly $200,000 cash seized from two homes and a storage unit.

• About $2,600 worth of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

• The Popham Street home in Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood where court records show the Gibsons’ 6-year-old daughter apparently overdosed (even though Audrey Gibson blamed it on her daughter eating dog food).

Federal officials also want nearly $35,000 that Audrey Gibson’s company — Poundcake Entertainment — made after renting the Akron Civic Theatre in February 2018 to host a YFN Lucci and Mozzy music show.

The Gibsons were arrested days after the show, but the theater staff didn’t know that, Howard Parr, executive director of the Civic, said Friday.

“We kept calling and calling and couldn’t get an answer,” he said.

The Civic was paid in full for its services, Parr said.

The staff was trying to reach Gibson to turn over the nearly $35,000 in sales her company earned from the show — the same money the feds now want as part of the drug case.

Neither Audrey nor Donte Gibson — who pleaded guilty in September to the same charges as his wife — have been sentenced yet.

But Donte Gibson appears to be having second thoughts about his plea deal after the U.S. Congress passed the First Step Act in December.

The bipartisan effort was hailed by many as a long-overdue effort at prison reform. Among other things, it aims to help prisoners earn credits toward reducing their sentences for good behavior and offers more training and work opportunities to help inmates prepare for life after prison.

The First Step Act also reduces mandatory minimum sentences for people like Donte Gibson, someone with prior drug convictions.

Whatever deal he made with prosecutors — details of which are not publicly available online — happened before the act, when someone with a history of felony drug convictions could get 25 years to life in prison.

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By Amanda Garrett

The Akron Beacon Journal (TNS)

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