Department of Justice: 6 Utahns indicted for running fentanyl drug trafficking ring from Cottonwood Heights

Aaron Shamo in 2015. Photo: Salt Lake County

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, May 31, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — Five Utahns and one former resident were indicted Wednesday for their alleged involvement in manufacturing fake prescription drugs using fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent, and frequently more deadly.

The international drug ring was based in Cottonwood Heights, according to information from John W. Huber, District of Utah U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice.

“Fentanyl is just toxic. It’s dangerous,” Huber said. “You and I would die from exposure to just two milligrams right now. We are continuing our investigation to determine how many people may have been impacted — their health, if not their life.”

Potential customers would ingest fentanyl while thinking they were taking a less dangerous drug.

Huber said the indictment represents months of hard work and cooperation between law enforcement agencies.

“My understanding is that this is a big deal,” Huber said, emphasizing the last two words. “Even though it happened in a basement in Cottonwood Heights, the far-reaching impact and affect — this is one of the biggest we’ve seen nationally thus far.”

The people charged are Aaron Michael Shamo, 27, of Cottonwood Heights; former Utah resident Drew Wilson Crandall, 30, of Brisbane, Australia; Alexandrya Marie Tonge, 25, and Katherine Lauren Ann Bustin, 26, both of South Jordan; and Mario Anthony Noble, 28, and Sean Michael Gygi, 27, both of Midvale.

Shamo, the group’s alleged administrator, was charged in November, but this indictment supersedes the previous. Bags containing more than $1.5 million in cash were recovered from his residence.

Officials say Shamo and team are alleged to have produced perhaps millions of illicit fentanyl pills that were sold on the darknet, a restricted-access computer network used chiefly for illegal file sharing.

“In a nutshell, the allegations are that Mr. Shamo and his associates took wholesale product of fentanyl that they acquired from overseas, then cut that into much smaller doses and put it in a die cast for oxycodone — it was not oxycodone — then distributed that nationally, over and over and over again to gain great profit from it,” Huber told reporters gathered at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Huber said the distribution map, a work in progress, already shows that the group distributed domestically “to the far corners of our nation, from here to Maine, and everywhere in between.”

Shamo has been in custody since November. If convicted on all counts, he would face penalties that would begin with mandatory life in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

The defendants face a laundry list of charges related to the production, distribution and sale of illegal, counterfeit drugs, and to money laundering.


  1. Aaron Shamo mailed my son the Xanax that ended his life last year- yes, I have accessed his various clandestine internet accounts, and can confirm without question that Shamo is the seller he bought from. I have no doubt that our story echoes hundreds of others across the country. I hope this man rots in jail- death would be a kindness, a kindness people like Shamo don’t deserve.


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