A federal judge on Tuesday signed an order allowing the sale of two vehicles and bitcoin that were seized by law enforcement agencies investigating an alleged multimillion-dollar opioid-drug trafficking ring that was based in a Cottonwood Heights basement.
Court documents say the six defendants have agreed, through their lawyers, to the sale, which was requested by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The criminal charges are still pending against all defendants, but federal prosecutors — citing the $465 a month storage fees for the vehicles and the volatile market for bitcoin, which is an electronic currency — want to sell those assets now.
The vehicles, a 2011 Ford F-350 pickup truck and a 2008 BMW 135i, will be sold at auction. The bitcoin, which is potentitally worth millions based on current value, will be sold or converted into U.S. dollars by using one or more commercial cryptocurrency exchanges.
Under the court order, the proceeds from the sales will be used to cover the costs of the sales, such as sales fees and commissions; storage and maintenance costs that have not been paid previously; and liens on any of the assets. All remaining proceeds will be subject to forfeiture proceedings, the order says.
The court case began with a November 2016 complaint alleging 27-year-old Aaron Michael Shamo, of Cottonwood Heights, was using a dangerous synthetic opioid to counterfeit pain pills and charging him with possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute.
On Nov. 22, 2016, officers from several agencies raided Shamo’s Cottonwood Heights home and a South Jordan home that was a “stash location” and seized nearly 100,000 pills, a pill press and more than $1.2 million in cash, according to federal prosecutors.
Indictments issued later added charges and five more defendants to the case. The defendants are charged with various conspiracy, money-laundering and drug-related counts.
The government also sought forfeiture of property derived from proceeds obtained as the result of the alleged offenses. In addition to the vehicles and bitcoin, the assets included the pill press and the cash.