A grand jury handed down a new indictment Thursday in a case involving a Salt Lake City opioid-drug ring, implicating the group’s alleged leader in the 2016 overdose death of a patron.
Aaron Michael Shamo, 27, was indicted in 2017 on 12 counts related to the opioid ring, which allegedly imported fentanyl and alprazolam from China and, for the most part, converted the drugs into fake oxycodone pills, which were then sold to customers online through dark web marketplaces. Prosecutors allege the drug ring distributed more than 800,000 pills.
The new indictment — the third filed in the case — adds an additional count of aiding and abetting the distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death. Court documents only identified the deceased as R.K. That person died June 13, 2016.
Based on the early indictment, Shamo already faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted on continuing a criminal enterprise. The new charge — along with the counts of aiding and abetting the importation of fentanyl and possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute — comes with possible life sentences.
Shamo’s attorney, Greg Skordas, said the new charge was “incredibly disappointing and discouraging” for his client, who’s been in custody since the case was first filed in Utah’s U.S. District Court in 2016.
“He’s already got a life sentence," Skordas said. ”So, I don’t know how much more they want."
At one point, investigators were looking into 28 deaths potentially connected to the drug ring.
Shamo’s jury trial is scheduled for Jan. 22.
Five alleged co-conspirators in the case have pleaded guilty to charges related to the ring. The most recent was 32-year-old Drew Crandall. The Australia-native pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of conspiracy to distribute Fentanyl, conspiracy to distribute Alprazolam and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office.
As part of the plea agreement, Crandall confessed to importing and distributing drugs in Utah and elsewhere and implicated Shamo in the enterprise, the release states.