A 29-year-old named Aaron Shamo became a millionaire by profiting off others’ opioid addictions. Shamo created an empire centered on trafficking fentanyl to unsuspecting buyers who thought they were receiving OxyContin. Despite Shamo’s attorney’s defense that he was a “fool” not smart enough to create a drug-selling empire, the facts stated otherwise.
Shamo began recruiting other people to work with him, and eventually, his pills led to dozens of deaths among his customers. He faced trial and was convicted of 12 counts including continuing criminal enterprise. That particular conviction is often used for major drug lords, including El Chapo, and with it comes a mandatory life sentence.
On the day of Shamo’s conviction for selling fake OxyContin and potentially contributing to numerous fentanyl overdose deaths, a search on the dark web showed thousands of listings for so-called oxycodone, many offering perks like 24-hour shipping.
According to the official press release from the United State’s Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah, Aaron Shamo was also guilty of importing not only fentanyl but also alprazolam from China. He used the drugs to create fake oxycodone pills and counterfeit Xanax tablets. Prosecutors said Shamo poured fuel on the flames of the opioid epidemic time and time again, and he made millions off of the suffering of others. The press release went on to say Shamo and his co-conspirators purchased pill presses so they could make their products look legitimate.
They then distributed the substances in all 50 states using a storefront called PHARMA-MASTER. They used the Dark Net Marketplace AlphaBay and the U.S. mail service. All of this occurred at a time when the fentanyl death rate and death rates from other synthetic opioids went up by 1,125% between 2011 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How Shamo Began Dealing Drugs
Shamo started his drug trafficking organization with long-time friend Drew Crandall. They started selling Adderall through a dark web browser. Adderall is a stimulant medication used to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The dark web is an unregulated portion of the internet that you reach via a special browser. Shamo and his friend then started selling MDMA, which is a club drug, as well as psychedelic mushrooms, cocaine and date rape drugs.
It was then that Shamo and Crandall purchased a pill press and started with the manufacture of fake Xanax. Xanax is a prescription anti-anxiety medication. Crandall left the country, and Shamo started working with another friend, Jonathan Luke Paz. Shamo and Paz started pressing oxycodone after hearing from a local drug dealer that it was a good way to make a lot of money.
Shamo began selling to not only individuals but also drug dealers. At one point, when police intercepted a shipment from just one day, it had nearly 35,000 fentanyl pills that were going to 26 states. Some were advertised as fentanyl, but many other people thought they were getting 30 milligrams of oxycodone.
Fentanyl-Caused Death Statistics
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s estimated to be 50 times more potent than heroin, and 100 times more potent than morphine. There is pharmaceutical fentanyl that is prescribed primarily to manage severe pain, such as cancer pain. There is also non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, also known as illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which was what Shamo was selling.
The CDC reported in 2017, there were more than 28,000 deaths from synthetic opioids. This wasn’t just from fentanyl deaths, but fentanyl is one of the most common synthetic opioids involved in overdose deaths because of its potency. State reports show that the number of opioid-involved death increases have been linked to positive fentanyl tests, but not fentanyl prescribing rates. Many of the increases in fentanyl-involved overdose deaths are likely linked to illicit manufacturing as opposed to pharmaceutical fentanyl.
The use of opioids can quickly spiral and lead a person to go through illicit channels like the dark web to get drugs. That increases the risk of serious side effects and death. If you would like to get help for opioid dependence or substance misuse for yourself or someone else, reach out to The Recovery Village today.
LiveStories. “Fentanyl Deaths Mortality.” Accessed October 7, 2019.
Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Utah. “Jury Convicts Shamo of Leading Drug Trafficking Network.” August 30, 3019. Accessed October 7, 2019.
Fox 35 Orlando. “The fool that fentanyl made into a millionaire.” September 14, 2019. Accessed October 7, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Synthetic Opioid Overdose.” April 2, 2019. Accessed October 7, 2019.