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Opioid Drugs

Ring Leader of Opioid Dark Web Storefront Receives Life Sentence

— October 30, 2020

Aaron Shamo, the self-proclaimed “white collar drug dealer,” gets life in prison.

Aaron Shamo, 30, ran a small operation online that quickly turned into a multimillion-dollar drug ring selling pills consisting of the deadly opioid fentanyl.  Federal agents raided his home in 2016 and quickly discovered the dark web scheme to be one of the largest in the country, with more than $1 million recovered from his sock drawer, according to prosecutors.  Also discovered in his home were notes to himself declaring “I am awesome” and referring to himself as a “white collar drug dealer.”

Shamo sold his products through a cyberspace storefront called Pharma-Master on the dark web.  He was convicted in federal court in August 2019 of shipping hundreds of thousands of fake prescription drugs to customers, obtaining his fentanyl supply from China.

“I didn’t know the dangers of what we were doing,” Shamo said at his sentencing hearing this month. “Together we created a monster.”

Ring Leader of Opioid Dark Web Storefront Receives Life Sentence
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“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.  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,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Vernon Stejskal said in his closing argument just prior to the defendant’s conviction, which included running a criminal enterprise that carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Tova Keblish of Long Island, New York, testified she thought her son was buying painkillers online to manage his pain after undergoing leg surgery.  She later discovered he was on the dark web buying from Shamo.  Gavin Keblish died soon after.  Authorities found proof that Shamo’s pills were linked to dozens of overdose deaths.

“Your customers were not just numbers, not just emails.  There were people behind them,” Tova said at sentencing. “You have denied my son the right to live.”

Defense attorney Greg Skordas argued a life sentence was too harsh for a first-time offender who couldn’t have established the online operation without the help of his equally responsible friends.  However, the state and federal agents involved in the case felt he was the mastermind.

“The opioid crisis has devastated individuals, families, and entire communities across the nation.  Aaron Shamo controlled and led a highly profitable organization that delivered fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills to every state in the union.  Though his customers remained faceless on the dark web, their despair was real.  Shamo profited off that despair and a jury of his peers has held him accountable,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said.

“We may never know the full extent of the lives lost or the families harmed by Aaron Shamo’s deadly enterprise as a global drug dealer.  Shamo’s conviction today is a significant victory in the ongoing war on illegal opioids in our state and nation. Utahns owe a debt of gratitude to all involved in taking down this predator,” Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes added.

“The comprehensive investigation into the Aaron Shamo counterfeit pill manufacturing network shows how dangerous these enterprises are.  The subsequent conviction of Mr. Shamo proves that those who operate with blatant disregard for public safety will bear the full weight of the law and be held accountable for their crimes,”  echoed Brian S. Besser, DEA District Agent in Charge.


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