From Eagle Scout to Drug Kingpin

1 min read · 3 sections

Fentanyl; the word alone has an ominous ring to it. What was once an obscure synthetic opioid, reserved almost exclusively for late-stage cancer patients in extreme pain, has become synonymous with the opioid epidemic. The drug, between 50 and 100 times more powerful than morphine, is fueling overdoses in the United States.

How did this drug turn into the driving force behind the opioid epidemic? While Big Pharma companies certainly can take a share of the blame for starting the crisis, the fentanyl epidemic appears to be the product of smaller players and drug cartels. Capitalizing on the unregulated dark web, dealers were able to ship vast quantities of fentanyl pills, masquerading them as oxycodone tablets.

Enter Aaron Shamo, a Utah native who went from an eagle scout to a drug kingpin, running his own fentanyl empire.

Building an Empire Pill by Pill

Shamo started his business after he dropped out of college. He and his friend Drew Crandall began selling Adderall on the dark web, seeking easy money through transactions on the unregulated Internet marketplace. Through research and steady escalation, Shamo and Crandall began shipping more dangerous substances, ranging from MDMA to cocaine to date rape drugs.

It wasn’t long before Shamo stumbled upon the idea of producing and shipping fake oxycodone. Purchasing fentanyl from China and using a pill press to turn it into mock-oxycodone, Shamo began selling thousands of pills a week. His dark web site, Pharma-Master, flourished. Shamo began recruiting “runners” to pick up packages and drop them in the mail.

Court Case and Conviction

The fall of Shamo’s empire began when customs agents discovered a suspicious package being shipped from China to Utah. Inside was enough fentanyl to make 100,000 pills. Customs agents moved quickly, following package trails and runners to Shamo’s doorstep. The agents arrested Shamo, finding over 74,000 pills awaiting distribution in his house and over one million dollars in cash. Crandall, who participated in the drug trade with Shamo, was apprehended in Hawaii shortly after.

A jury convicted Shamo on 12 counts, including “continuing criminal enterprise”, a charge usually reserved for drug kingpins.

While Shamo’s operation was large for 2016 standards, in 2019 it would appear small. The dark web continues to function as a black market for the drug trade, with various sites harking oxycodone tablets. Even Latin American drug cartels have transitioned to producing and distributing fentanyl. Labs in Asian countries continue to produce and ship the substance.

Fentanyl Treatment

While the fentanyl epidemic is still raging, this doesn’t mean you can’t find help. Fentanyl addiction doesn’t wait, so neither should you wait on getting help.

Fentanyl addiction is devastating, but not unbeatable. Luckily, American Addiction Centers is here to help you beat fentanyl and find recovery. Our medically-informed and patient-centric treatment curriculum has been proven to have a success rate nearly double the national average. AAC can help you detox from fentanyl in safety and security. We’re confident in our ability to help you find recovery. Don’t suffer addiction in silence. Call now to start your journey to recovery.


All quotes and data were initially published by Associated Press News. To read the full article, click here.


Photos Courtesy of Shutterstock

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