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11/23/2016

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Multi-million dollar fentanyl smuggling and distribution organization dismantled in Salt Lake City from ICE-initiated investigation

About $1 million discovered in suspect’s safe

SALT LAKE CITY — A multi-million dollar fentanyl smuggling and distribution organization was dismantled in a Salt Lake City law enforcement operation Tuesday following an investigation initiated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). 

This case is being jointly investigated by HSI Salt Lake City, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Each agency contributes unique law enforcement authorities and resources to these investigations.

“We are proud of the work we’ve done with our law enforcement partners to dismantle this dangerous fentanyl smuggling and distribution organization that threatened the safety of the neighborhood where it was made and the lives of those they were selling it to,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge John Eisert. “Fentanyl has recently caused many deaths throughout the country due to its high potency and inexpensive cost.  We take very seriously our responsibility to helping to stop this public scourge.”

HSI special agents and their partners discovered about 70,000 pills that look like the prescription pharmaceutical drugs Oxycodone and about 25,000 pills that look like Xanax in the course of their investigation. Agents have reason to believe the pills that look like Oxycodone actually contain fentanyl. Both Oxycodone and Xanax are Scheduled II controlled substances. Due to the presence of fentanyl, which can be deadly even in minute quantities, the DEA Bio-Hazard Team was called in for their expertise in decontamination.

Suspect Aaron Michael Shamo admitted to having about $1 million in cash stored in his home safe. Officials also searched a stash location in South Jordan, Utah, as part of this investigation.

According to the complaint, based on surveillance, HSI believes that the suspect employed several people over the last year to accept packages from China and deliver them to him without opening them. Officials seized several packages that were shipped to these individuals from China and found that one contained 120 grams of fentanyl. Shamo allegedly operated the fentanyl distribution operation by packing the pills in numerous smaller packages and shipping them to various addresses in the U.S. using the U.S. Postal Service.

As part of its customs authority, HSI special agents investigate narcotics smuggling organizations and the methods they use to smuggle contraband across U.S. borders.  Much of the illegal drug market in the U.S. is based on illegal narcotics grown or manufactured in foreign countries and smuggled across our nation’s borders. Smuggling methods can include the use of high-speed vessels, cargo containers, aircraft, commercial trucking, commercial vessel and human carriers.

This case has been accepted for prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Utah.

“If you see something, say something.”  Concerned citizens are encouraged to report questionable or suspicious circumstances. HSI has three ways for members of the public to send us a tip: ICE’s smartphone app, our tip line which is 1-866-DHS-2-ICE and on www.ice.gov. Our tip line is anonymous and staffed by trained investigators 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 10/19/2018