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Opioids in multi-million dollar drug bust in Utah came from China

By Karen Graham     Jun 1, 2017 in Health
Salt Lake City - Federal authorities say they have busted a multi-million dollar opioid drug ring working out of a basement in suburban Salt Lake City, Utah.
The feds say this latest drug bust underscores how easy it is for a small operation to make millions of dollars by churning out thousands of potentially fatal fentanyl pills and selling them online nationwide.
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber announced that the seizure of nearly 500,000 pills ranked as one of the largest in the country. Huber says the group involved in the drug ring had met while working at eBay. They bought the drugs from China online and then pressed them into fake prescription drugs they sold online to unknowing customers, reports ABC News.
"What disturbs me is people can so easily get into this business and exploit it for their profit," he said.
Prescription drug presses have become quite the necessity for drug rings in getting their drugs on the street. CNN reported in March this year that US Customs and Border Protection is seizing pill presses at a rate 19 times higher than in 2011 when fentanyl first came on the global market.
The group in Utah used illegal pill presses to make fake Xanax and Oxycodone pills. "To the naked eye, you can't tell the difference," said John Martin, special agent in charge of the DEA's San Francisco division. "If you have counterfeit pills, you can't make them without pill presses."
Officials have been able to trace at least 8,000 transactions back to the drug operation in the upscale neighborhood of Cottonwood Heights. The group made an estimated $2.8 million in less than a year.
Six people were charged in an 11-count indictment, accused of participating in the operation that first came to light in November 2016. The suspected ringleader, 27-year-old Aaron Shamo, was arrested. If convicted on just the first count of the indictment, Shamo could face life in prison.
One of a number of different types of pill presses available to drug rings. This is a hydraulic pres...
One of a number of different types of pill presses available to drug rings. This is a hydraulic press.
Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services
A man suspected of being Shamo's partner, Drew Wilson Crandall, 30, was arrested in Hawaii in early May. Agents found guns and over one million dollars stuffed in garbage bags when they raided the Cottonwood Heights home.
Brian Besser, district agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration says the arrests point out how a relatively small number of people can have such a huge effect on so many people across the country.
"America has an inescapable appetite for drugs," he said. "Until we can change the paradigm on how we deal with pain and how we self-medicate, this problem is going to continue to proliferate."
Some people are also suggesting that we need to "cut off the head of the snake," so to speak, in getting the flow of illicit synthetic opioids coming out of China halted. That, in itself, is a major part of the problem.
More about opioids, Drug ring, Salt lake city, fentanyl, China