A criminal case involving a multimillion-dollar drug ring operating out of a Cottonwood Heights basement and using the darknet to sell pills with the potent and deadly opium closed Friday as those who helped run the scheme were sentenced to prison terms was.
Aaron Shamo, a 31-year-old college dropout who officials said made millions of dollars selling fentanyl-laced painkillers on the darknet, was ordered to spend the rest of his life behind bars in October.
The bullets he suppressed in his basement and sold with the help of eight others resulted in more than 90 deaths. Officials say the actual total amount is unclear as investigators could not trace every distributor who bought the pills in bulk and then sold them to others.
As of Friday, US District Judge Dale Kimball had given lesser sentences for each of Shamo’s eight co-defendants in their role in the operation. As part of a bargain with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy to launder money, smuggling drugs through the mail, or distribution of fentanyl and alprazolam, commonly known by the brand name Xanax. .
Draper’s thirty-five-year-old Drew Wilson Crandall was ordered Friday four and a half months in federal prison for helping run Shamo’s empire. Crandall, who prosecutors described as Shamo’s second in command, admitted to importing and distributing the substances with Shamo from dark web shop Pharma-Master in 2018 and into mason jars before using the pill press. Powder mixed. He testified against Shamo, explaining how the operation began small when the two were roommates and Shamo suggests that they sell Adderall to cover Crandall’s student loan payments.
Crandall sold his stake in the company to Shamo for $40,000 and moved to New Zealand in 2015, but later agreed to work again for Shamo to handle customer service issues.
Crandall and others’ tearful apologies in court on Friday did little to comfort Tova Keblish, whose 23-year-old son, Gavin, bought OxyContin from Shamo’s store on the dark web after breaking his leg.
She said a heavy sentence would send the message to anyone involved in dealing with fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic similar to morphine — that serious time would do.
“But I can’t even say that,” said Keblish of Long Island, New York, one of many mothers whose sons took the pills. “These kids are so young they’re going to have a few months and then be out and live a life. Our sons will have no life.”
At the time of Shamo’s arrest, officers confiscated $1.2 million in cash from a sock drawer at his home and said he had $2.4 million more in bitcoins.
Assistant US Attorney for Utah Vernon Stagescal said the sentences send a message that anyone involved in the distribution of illegal narcotics will be held accountable.
Officials say the case illustrates how easy it is for drug dealers to access the dark web and conduct global smuggling operations from their living rooms.
“The Dark Web allowed defendants in this case to operate their criminal organization from the safety and comfort of their homes,” Utah Postal Inspection Service team leader Jared Bingham said in a statement. “However, the dangers and deadly effects of their drug dealing venture were not limited to individual cities and towns.”
Other defendants sentenced this week include:
• Alexandria Marie Tong, 29, and Katherine Lauren Anne Bustin, 31, both from South Jordan, were each sentenced to three years in prison. Both admitted that they were paid on behalf of Shamo and Crandall to order and receive packages with illegal narcotics, and used their bitcoin wallets to cover drug trafficking expenses. .
• Anna “Gabby” Noriega, 30, of western Jordan, received three years’ probation after admitting to buying supplies using money from drug sales.
• Mario Anthony Noble, 32, of Midvale, was sentenced to 30 months after being recruited by Shamo to be the “backbone” of Shamo’s dark web store and to maintain the mailing addresses of customers.
• Sean Michael Gigi, 31, of Midwell, a “runner” who admitted to accepting narcotics packages from China and delivering them to post offices around the Salt Lake Valley, was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
In June, Christopher Sean Kenny, 46, of Midwell, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors said he purchased a Ford F-150 in August 2016 for Shamo using cash from narcotics sales, receiving one dollar per pill. He admitted that he was a “middleman” who helped Shamo sell fentanyl-laced products.