How a clean-cut Eagle Scout became a fentanyl drug lord

By Claire Galofaro and Lindsay Whitehurst | Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The photo that flashed onto the courtroom screen showed a young man dead on his bedroom floor, bare feet poking from the cuffs of his rolled up jeans. Lurking on a trash can at the edge of the picture was what prosecutors said delivered this death: an ordinary, U.S. Postal Service envelope.

It had arrived with 10 round, blue pills inside, the markings of pharmaceutical-grade oxycodone stamped onto the surface. The young man took out two, crushed and snorted them. But the pills were poison, prosecutors said: counterfeits containing fatal grains of fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid that has written a deadly new chapter in the American opioid epidemic.

The envelope was postmarked from the suburbs of Salt Lake City.

That’s where a clean-cut, 29-year-old college dropout and Eagle Scout named Aaron Shamo made himself a millionaire by building a fentanyl trafficking empire with not much more than his computer and the help of a few friends.

This story was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

For three weeks this summer, those suburban millennials climbed onto the witness stand at his federal trial and offered an unprecedented window into how fentanyl bought and sold online has transformed the global drug trade. There was no testimony of underground tunnels or gangland murders or anything that a wall at the southern border might stop. Shamo called himself a “white-collar drug dealer,” drew in co-workers from his time at eBay and peppered his messages to them with smiley-face emojis. His attorney called him a fool; his primary defense was that he isn’t smart enough to be a kingpin.

How he and his friends managed to flood the country with a half-million fake oxycodone pills reveals the ease with which fentanyl now moves around …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

      

Thieves steal $5 million gold toilet from Britain’s Blenheim Palace

LONDON (Reuters) — Burglars have stolen a fully-functional, 18-carat gold toilet from Britain’s Blenheim Palace, where it had been installed as an art exhibit, police said Saturday.

The toilet, valued at more than $5 million, was part of an exhibition of work by Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan which opened two days ago at the stately home 60 miles west of London, a major tourist attraction.

The toilet, named “America,” was previously on display in a cubicle at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, where more than 100,000 visitors were able to use it.

Thieves with at least two vehicles broke into the palace, the birthplace of World War Two leader Winston Churchill, and removed the toilet some time before 5 a.m., Thames Valley Police said.

“Due to the toilet being plumbed into the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding,” Detective Inspector Jess Milne added in a public statement.

Police said they had arrested one 66-year-old man in connection with the theft, but had not recovered the artwork.

Blenheim Palace said it was saddened by the loss of the “precious” artwork, but said that the rest of the exhibition would reopen on Sunday.

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Last year, while the toilet was at the Guggenheim, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump turned down an offer from the museum to temporarily install the toilet for his …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

      

Bahamians search for missing as list shrinks to 1,300

By Danica Coto | Associated Press

MCLEAN’S TOWN, Bahamas — They scan social media, peer under rubble, or try to follow the smell of death in an attempt to find family and friends.

They search amid alarming reports that 1,300 people remain listed as missing nearly two weeks after Hurricane Dorian hit the northern Bahamas.

The government, which has put the official death toll at 50, has cautioned that the list is preliminary and many could be staying in shelters and just haven’t been able to connect with loved ones.

But fears are growing that many more died when the Category 5 storm slammed into the archipelago’s northern region with winds in excess of 185 mph and severe flooding that toppled concrete walls and cracked trees in half as Dorian battered the area for a day and a half.

“If they were staying with me, they would’ve been safe,” Phil Thomas Sr. said as he leaned against the frame of his roofless home in the fishing village of McLean’s Town and looked into the distance.

The boat captain has not seen his 30-year-old son, his two grandsons or his granddaughter since the storm. They were all staying with his daughter-in-law, who was injured and taken to a hospital in the capital, Nassau, after the U.S. Coast Guard found her — but only her.

“People have been looking, but we don’t really come up with anything,” Thomas said, adding that he’s heard rumors that someone saw a boat belonging to his son, a marine pilot, though the vessel also hasn’t been found.

He especially misses his 8-year-old grandson: “He was my fishing partner. We were close.”

The loss weighs on Thomas, who said he tries to stay busy cleaning up his home so he doesn’t think about them.

“It’s one of those things. I’m heartbroken, but life goes on,” he said. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

      

Leroy wanders into nearby school, drawing citation for owner

Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — This little piggy should have stayed home.

The State reports that for the fourth time, Leroy – a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig – wandered over to Brennan Elementary School in Columbia, S.C., leading officials to slap Mcgregor Wallace with citations for owning a pig within city limits and having a fugitive pet. Wallace is scheduled for a court appearance in October.

Wallace says Leroy is his emotional support animal meant to help him deal with PTSD from domestic trauma.

Wallace says he got Leroy several months ago to replace a standard pig that grew too big. He says Leroy is clever and knows how to open the home’s gate when Wallace isn’t home. The pig also can open the refrigerator.

The 7-month-old swine is now at Columbia’s animal shelter.

…read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

      

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