CRIME

Defendant in major opioid case says he was helping people

Aug 28, 2019, 5:31 AM
FILE - This 2015 photo provided by Michael P. Shamo shows his son, Aaron Michael Shamo. At the cent...
FILE - This 2015 photo provided by Michael P. Shamo shows his son, Aaron Michael Shamo. At the center of a multimillion-dollar opioid case, he testified Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, that he saw himself as helping people get prescription drugs they needed while making money for himself and his friends. (Michael P. Shamo, via AP)
(Michael P. Shamo, via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Prosecutors have called Aaron Shamo the kingpin of a multimillion-dollar drug ring that shipped hundreds of thousands of potentially deadly opioid pills across the country from a suburban Utah basement.

Shamo took the witness stand Tuesday at his trial and downplayed his role in the operation that authorities have blamed for at least one overdose death.

He said his friends were also deeply involved as sales of fake oxycodone grew and he told himself he was helping people get drugs they needed while making money for himself and his friends.

The affable, clean-cut former eBay worker testified that he got messages from grateful customers who said their doctors had refused to prescribe any more painkillers. He also said people without insurance had to pay far more for the drugs in the legal marketplace.

“It seemed like a good idea, it was a win-win situation,” the 29-year-old Shamo testified.

He said the operation began with reselling legitimately obtained prescription drugs, and as it grew his friends were involved in key steps along the way.

Shamo said his roommate and “brainiac” friend Drew Crandall came up with the idea to press their own Xanax pills. Crandall later pleaded guilty to drug distribution and money laundering charges.

Another friend suggested they begin making fake oxycodone with fentanyl.

“At the time no one was screaming ‘stop.’ Everyone was benefiting,” Shamo testified. “It went from being a hobby to something where my eyes were a little too big. This wasn’t what I expected at all.”

Shamo is charged with operating a criminal enterprise, selling drugs that caused a fatal overdose and other counts.

Prosecutors say he was taking trips and partying at clubs with the money he made off fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone. They have said the drugs he sold caused at least one fatal overdose and may be linked to dozens more as the nation’s opioid crisis spiraled into a fentanyl epidemic.

Prosecutor Michael Gadd said during cross-examination that Shamo kept more than $1 million stacked in his dresser drawers and stashed nearly $500,000 more in his parents’ closet in Arizona.

Gadd also said Shamo took trips to California, Las Vegas and Puerto Rico with friends, bought bottle service at clubs and treated himself to designer clothes.

He pointed to a note he said Shamo wrote to himself on his computer on Jan. 1, 2016, saying he was going to “overachieve,” be “(expletive) rich” and a girl he liked would become “obsessed” with him.

FILE – This booking photo provided by the Weber County Sheriff’s Office shows Aaron Michael Shamo. Shamo, a 29-year-old man at the center of a multimillion-dollar dark web opioid drug ring case says he saw himself as helping people get prescription drugs they needed while making money for himself and his friends. Shamo took the stand in a federal courtroom in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, miles from the suburban basement where he and a friend pressed thousands of fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills that were shipped to people all over the country. (Weber County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

Shamo explained the note by saying he had been trying to make himself feel better with a visualization exercise inspired by the self-help book “The Secret.”

Prosecutors have said Shamo bought fentanyl from China online and then mixed it with fillers and pressed it into pills with another friend, Jonathan Luke Paz, who has also pleaded guilty in the case.

The operation sold nearly a half-million pills, authorities have said.

The pills were sold through a dark-web marketplace store called Pharma-Master. The dark web is a second layer of the internet reached by a special browser and often used for illegal activity.

Shamo testified that he had tried party drugs but grew up in a middle-class family who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so he knew little about addiction before he went to jail more than two years ago.

“You don’t see the ripple that it has on all these people and their families,” he said, crying on the witness stand. “I got to see the struggle and it’s just brutal.”

Crime

Pictured here are items seized from one of four drug busts authorities in Carbon County conducted o...
Mark Jones

Carbon County authorities make significant drug busts

Authorities in Carbon County, with a search warrant, have conducted four drug busts over the past three weeks.
4 months ago
City hall break-in window was smashed...
Devin Oldroyd

South Weber City Hall break-in causes minor damages

The South Weber City Hall break-in was reported by employees as they were showing up to work Friday morning. Walk-in traffic was closed due to the break-in.
4 months ago
Photo of a Utah highway petrol vehicle...
Dan Bammes

Former Utah Highway Patrol trooper charged with child sexual abuse

A former Utah Highway Patrol trooper is facing charges of child sexual abuse after an investigation. A statement from the Highway Patrol says Trooper Bryan Adams was placed on administrative leave shortly after the agency received a complaint of possible criminal misconduct.
4 months ago
A 38-year-old man was taken into custody Thursday by police after an alleged stabbing incident at P...
Mark Jones

Suspect arrested after allegedly stabbing another man at Pioneer Park

A 38-year-old man was arrested Thursday at Pioneer Park by Salt Lake City Police after an alleged stabbing incident.
4 months ago
A 28-year-old man was taken into custody Wednesday by Salt Lake City Police for allegedly stealing ...
Mark Jones

Man arrested for allegedly stealing a vehicle and assaulting an officer

A 28-year-old man was arrested by Salt Lake City police after he allegedly stole a vehicle in addition to assaulting a police officer.
4 months ago
Lori Vallow Daybell, center, listens during a court hearing in St. Anthony, Idaho, Tuesday, April 1...
Samantha Herrera

Trial venue for Lori Vallow Daybell moved to Ada County

The Lori Vallow Daybell trial will be held in Ada County, beginning October 11. It is scheduled to run through December 16.
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Defendant in major opioid case says he was helping people