SALT LAKE CITY — A grieving mother whose “winsome” 23-year-old son died from a counterfeit drug laced with fentanyl had this to say about the Utah man who sold him the pills on the darknet:
“He never sees the faces or knows the lives of his victims, but my husband and I would like the character and impact of at least one such life to be known.”
Her son was hard-working, gifted in athletics and in building and fixing things. He was on the rise in a construction company where he worked as supervisor, overseeing four different renovation projects the morning he died.
He left behind a younger brother with whom he played soccer and hunted and fished. He left behind a blond, curly-haired 3-year-old daughter. He left his mom and dad, who heard frequently in the years after they adopted him that he was a beautiful child. He left behind his birth parents, who would have soon met him for the first time.
“Why the sudden end to this incredibly valuable life? He took something for pain that was not what it was claimed to be. Not a pain pill, but a death pill,” the mother wrote in a statement federal prosecutors collected from the families of Aaron Shamo’s dead customers.
“The indiscriminate murder of a deeply loved person whose star was on the rise, snuffed out by a death peddler. Irreplaceable and forever missed. … An immeasurably valuable life, as all lives are. Also immeasurable is the deep evil of someone who engages in heartless, reckless actions for the sake of enriching himself.”
Shamo, 30, raked in millions of dollars making fentanyl-laced painkillers in his basement and selling the pills on the darknet. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 15 after a jury last year found him guilty of 12 of 13 felony charges, including continuing a criminal enterprise, which carries a mandatory-minimum life sentence.
Jurors didn’t make a decision on whether Shamo sold drugs that resulted in the death of a 21-year-old California man.
Still, in arguing that Shamo should spend the rest of his life in prison, prosecutors highlighted at least 90 people they say died after buying drugs from his website in a memorandum filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Government prosecutors say they agreed not to present evidence about those deaths at trial due to the risk of unfair prejudice.
“While it is true in many instances that the defendant’s pills did not directly cause his customers’ deaths, in those instances the defendant’s pills fed his customers’ addictions until death ultimately took them,” according to court documents.
Shamo’s attorney, Greg Skordas, said the jury didn’t convict Shamo of causing someone’s death, and the prison sentence will be the same regardless of what prosecutors wrote in the memorandum, which he called “fluff” and an attempt to draw media attention.
“They couldn’t win that one,” he said. “They have no business making the argument. They just did it for attention. I mean, it’s a life sentence. The judge can’t do anything no matter what we all submit.”
Skordas described Shamo as “dumb kid” who did a horrible thing that had terrible consequences. He said other members of the drug-making operation played him for a fool and at least three of them are as culpable as him but prosecutors want to make an example of Shamo.
The sentencing hearing comes more than a year after he was convicted — delayed in part by Shamo having a breakdown in jail that left him hospitalized and incompetent for a time, Skordas said. Shamo, he said, has received treatment and medication and is now competent to appear in court.