Drug Bust Like 'Something Out of Science Fiction Movie'

'It would be very safe to say people have died from this operation'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2016 9:07 AM CST

(Newser) – Officials are calling it the largest seizure of pills and one of the largest drug busts in Utah history. DEA agents raided a home in Cottonwood Heights on Tuesday and found an "absolutely catastrophic" drug operation. In addition to almost $1 million in cash and what DEA Agent Brian Besser believes will ultimately tally more than a million fentanyl pills, agents also found a "pill press" likely used to turn powdered fentanyl into counterfeit oxycodone tablets. Besser says the press' output could be thousands of pills an hour. "It would be very safe to say people have died from this operation," Besser tells KSL, noting fentanyl is far more potent than the oxycodone buyers would be expecting.

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For non-opioid users, simply touching fentanyl can kill, which is why ABC4 reports the scene "looked like something out of a science fiction movie," with agents clad in hazmat suits and using SCUBA tanks. Aaron Michael Shamo, 26, who was renting the home, was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute, reports Fox 13. He could face 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted. According to federal court documents, Shamo "employed several individuals over the past year to accept shipments of packages from China" and then deliver them, unopened, to him. Agents who intercepted some packages say at least one contained fentanyl. Besser breaks down the math for ABC4, explaining that a kilogram of pure fentanyl can be bought from China for $4,000 and turned into as many as 1 million pills worth as much as $22 million. (Read more fentanyl stories.)

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