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Dave & Dujanovic: Busting drug rings on the dark (and deadly) web

FILE - This booking photo provided by the Weber County Sheriff's Office shows Aaron Michael Shamo, 29, 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. (Weber County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Narcotics users don’t need to leave their homes during the pandemic, thanks to the dark web. And it keeps them hooked even under quarantine.

Through the dark web, private commuter networks can communicate and conduct business anonymously without divulging identifying information, such as their location. The dark web forms a small part of the deep web — the part of the web not indexed by search engines.

Busted

Operation DisrupTor was an international investigation targeting opioid traffickers on the dark web. The investigation resulted in 179 arrests worldwide, $6.5 million in seized (including digital currency) and 500 kilograms of drugs.

Operation DisrupTor was the U.S. government’s largest activity targeting criminal activity to date — particularly opioid — trafficking on the darknet.

Dark web in Utah

U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic Thursday to discuss the dark web and how it helps deliver illegal drugs to mailboxes in Utah. 

“Is this a big problem here in Utah?” Debbie asked the attorney. “Is this dark web being used to deliver drugs to the doorsteps of Utah residents?” 

“Oh, absolutely, Debbie,” Huber said. “In fact, Utah — we’re the cutting edge on many things. We were the cutting edge unfortunately on cracking cases on the darknet. Back in 2016, we busted a ring run by a guy named Aaron Shamo.”

Aaron Michael Shamo, 29, of Cottonwood Heights was found guilty in September 2019 after a jury found he imported and distributed fentanyl from China. Shamo now faces a potential mandatory-minimum life sentence. 

Almost 500,000 fentanyl-laced pills were distributed throughout the country — most of them by the U.S. mail. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine.

“Two milligrams [of fentanyl] — that’s like two grains of salt — is enough to kill someone who hasn’t built up a tolerance,” Huber said.

“Ninety-plus people, who were customers of his, died of overdoses that we can see. That’s a conservative estimate,” Huber said, who said it’s a “huge” problem in Utah and worldwide.

He compared drug trafficking on the dark web to an “Amazon of a parallel universe,” including customer reviews and five-star ratings.

“People are ordering drugs like they would new sneakers,” the U.S. attorney said.

“As you talk about these deliveries, how are they being delivered?” Dave asked. “Are they being delivered by the U.S. Postal Service and Amazon? Is there a special group of deliverers?” 

“They’re going to use a common carrier,” Huber said. “That’s UPS, FedEx, DHL, that’s the United States Postal Service.”

 

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play