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