A jury in federal court reached a guilty verdict on several felony charges against a man in Utah accused of running and maintaining a pill-pressing operation that distributed fentanyl-laced opioids across the country.
Aaron Shamo, 29, will spend his life in prison after being found guilty of running a “continuing criminal enterprise,” which carries a mandatory life sentence. He was also convicted of aiding and abetting the importation of a controlled substance, intentional adulteration of drugs while held for sale, and manufacture of a controlled substance after the jury found him guilty of 12 out of 13 charges.
Shamo and others were implicated in the drug crimes that consisted of importing fentanyl and opioids from China, then pressing them into pills and distributing them over the “dark web.” Defense attorney for Shamo Greg Skordas said he had tried to avoid the life sentence by proving to the jury that his client was not the ringleader of the group of friends who manufactured and sold the drugs.
“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.”
The jury was hung on only one conviction involving Shamo’s responsibility in the overdose death of a 21-year-old man in California.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Vernon Stejska said to the jury in his closing remarks that Shamo was responsible for needless pain and suffering as a perpetrator of the opioid crisis in the United States.
“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.”
Skordas said that his client does intend to appeal his conviction but that he will not be able to ask for a lighter sentence. His official sentencing date is set for Dec. 3.