Utah man found guilty of running multimillion-dollar opioid ring
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A Utah man was convicted Friday of running a multimillion-dollar opioid ring that reportedly distributed hundreds of thousands of drugs across the U.S. in a scheme that authorities say helped drive the nation's opioid epidemic. 

The jury found that Aaron Michael Shamo, 29, organized and directed an operation that imported fentanyl and alprazolam from China and used those drugs to manufacture fake oxycodone pills made with fentanyl and counterfeit Xanax tablets, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Utah. 

The conviction for operating a criminal enterprise carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.


Shamo was found guilty on 12 of the 13 counts in the indictment, including aiding and abetting the importation of a controlled substance, manufacture of a controlled substance and intentional adulteration of drugs while held for sale.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the jury had been hung on one count in the indictment in which Shamo was accused of contributing to a man's overdose death. Shamo is still expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The U.S. attorney's office said Shamo and his co-conspirators bought pill presses to make the pills look like legitimate pharmaceutical drugs. Shamo then allegedly gave the drugs to others for distribution across the U.S. through a storefront called PHARMA-MASTER, on the website AlphaBay and through the U.S. mail.

Defense attorney Greg Skordas told The Salt Lake Tribune that Shamo was stoic during the trial and remained so after the verdict. 

“He’s just a kid,” Skordas said, “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.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Vernon Stejskal said in closing remarks Thursday that Shamo had exploited people suffering during the opioid crisis, according to the statement. 

"Aaron Shamo knew the nation was on fire with opioids and he poured fuel on the flames, over and over and over, never getting burned himself, but causing pain and misery wherever his fire spread," he said. 

"Aaron Shamo could be considered the face of the opioid epidemic. He was a profiteer, callously making millions of dollars and living a life of leisure while exploiting those suffering through opioid addiction," Stejskal added. 

Shamo will be sentenced in December. According to the U.S. attorney's office, his co-conspirators' sentencings are pending after they reached plea agreements with federal prosecutors.