Utah man, 29, ran 50-state opioid ring out of basement; now faces life in prison, authorities say


A man in Utah was convicted Friday of running a multimillion-dollar opioid ring out if his basement that pumped more than a half-million counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl across the country into all 50 states, according to a report.

A federal jury found Aaron Michael Shamo, 29, of Cottonwood Heights, guilty of 12 federal charges as the ringleader of a group of friends who made and sold illegal drugs on the dark web, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

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He was found guilty of running a “continuing criminal enterprise,” which carries a mandatory life sentence, according to the newspaper. The jury was hung on one charge related to the overdose death of a man in California.

Aaron Michael Shamo, 29, was convicted of running a multi-million dollar opioid ring on the dark web.

Aaron Michael Shamo, 29, was convicted of running a multi-million dollar opioid ring on the dark web. (Weber County Sheriff's Office)


“Shamo’s conviction today is a significant victory in the ongoing war on illegal opioids in our state and nation,“ Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement. “Utahns owe a debt of gratitude to all involved in taking down this predator.”

Prosecutors argued Shamo was a ruthless drug dealer who gambled heavily, partied on boats and paid for table service at concerts all while knowing that his customers were becoming sick from the knock-off prescription pills he sold them.

In order to evade a possible life sentence, defense said Shamo was not smart enough to be the leader of the operation, noting he purchased a pill press machine, packaging items and other supplies in his own name without trying to cover it up. They also noted that several other members of the group accepted plea deals and will not serve time behind bars.

“He’s going to die in prison,” Shamo’s defense attorney, Greg Skordas, told the newspaper. “That was the government’s goal. And they reached it.”

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“He’s just a kid,” Skordas continued, “and to think that he will never have another meal with his family, never go on a date, never watch his child be born. Ever. He’s 29 years old. And his life is over.”