From Mormon kid to alleged drug kingpin: Inside the rise and fall of Aaron Shamo

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  • Austin Coug Pflugerville, TX
    July 2, 2018 10:19 a.m.

    @izzraul,

    "We know Israel & our government committed 9/11" Please share the proof you have for such a statement.

    @Aggielove,

    "Utah is not a popular place outside of Utah." Not sure what this comment has to do with the article. Certainly, isn't based on fact since Utah has millions and millions of visitors each year from around the globe that visit the national parks, ski resorts, temple square, etc...

  • izzraul Altadena, CA
    May 21, 2018 9:18 a.m.

    I find it amusing that people ignore facts in favor of blaming this guy. We know Israel & our government committed 9/11. 1 of the dancing Israeli admitted their job was documenting it.
    We falsely blamed innocent Muslims in order to invade, murder and steal . We claimed Saddam had WMD's, and we had to protect the people. Then killed millions of them. We committed terrorism under the guise of defending freedom to secure the poppy fields producing the Opiods. It's not a coincidence. He didn't fly over seas & murder millions of innocent people for the drugs. He didn't do 9/11 to steal the drugs. He's not flying it into the US. But some one is. Calling him a drug dealer say's something about this country. Big Pharma CEO's are making $80,000 to $400,000 a day. A DAY!

    Do we think it's a coincidence? Are we that dense and blind? Why isn't SWAT kicking in the CEO's doors? Because somehow the exact same drugs are legal for them to sell? LOL. This guy wasn't making $80,000 a day. What makes Big Pharma CEO's any different? Besides the fact they make 5x the money and kill 3x the number of people!?

    Put blame where it belongs.

  • Flipphone Sandy, UT
    May 7, 2018 7:35 a.m.

    What is sad is that these low life's have customers. without customers there is no problem.

  • Aggielove Caldwell, ID
    April 16, 2018 8:03 a.m.

    It’s pretty easy to see how this would happen in Utah. Money rules and so do material items. But hey, isn’t that taught to be wrong at church? Utah is not a popular place outside of Utah.

  • frugalfly PULLMAN, WA
    April 10, 2018 2:51 p.m.

    What is it about human nature that causes us to seek greed and money at any cost? What is it about us that makes it that we shun hard work, personal development and sacrifice for the "symbols" of success? As a parent, I feel pain for the parents of this person. You love and want so much to help your children to develop. Kids have it tough today. I can't believe how alluring the world and societal norms makes the most bone headed choices. Kids have never had: to work less, more options, more electronic distractions, more mental illness, and less parental/societal guidance. Everything goes in todays world until it gets to the point that people are in total ruin or causing total ruin to someone else. Before that, "don't judge"! "quite pushing your religion!", "you aren't open and caring!". Darned if you do, darned if you don't...I put a lot of this on our new "open minded" society full of "no consequence". Imagine what discipline and self control could do for this society? You can't legislate it. It is hard gained one person at a time.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    April 10, 2018 7:58 a.m.

    As a former cop, I have seen the human debris field left behind from abuse of all kinds of drugs from alcohol to black tar heroin. There is nothing good about any of it, including Marijuana.

    As far as I'm concerned, Shamo is not a "good kid". He made many, many bad decisions over time that affected lots of lives and maybe even killed some of them.

    And the sad thing is, just like much of corporate America, it is about the money. Nothing else matters. Just the money.

    As far as I'm concerned, they can't throw the book at him hard enough and they can't put him away in a cell deep enough. Frankly, once convicted, he should spend the rest of his life in the SuperMax prison in Florence, CO. Give him 23 hours a day in a cell to think about what he has done.

  • Janet Ontario, OR
    April 10, 2018 3:49 a.m.

    UtahTroutStalker, I agree. Some of successful entrepreneurs are highly intelligent but socially awkward (nerds, nonconformists, etc.) and/or have learning disabilities. The subject of this article appears to have been one of those kids. As loving as his family may be, and as competent as his educators may have been, they didn't unlock his potential. It seems clear to me that he was brilliant at the business of running a drug operation. Drug dealers seldom personalize their customers. When he does, he will repent, but few prisons rehabilitate. Our climate today is one of retribution, not rehabilitation. In case you aren't familiar with it, "Breaking Bad" doesn't glamorize drug dealing; it's a cautionary tale. There is someone in our family with chronic, debilitating pain issues. After many years of prescribed opiates, s/he is now having great difficulty getting doctors to prescribe. Alternative medicines are either useless for many or illegal, with no one accountable for purity. Hence, our "war on drugs" is as much a cause for the deaths as the illegal drug trade.

  • kaysvillecougar KAYSVILLE, UT
    March 5, 2018 2:34 p.m.

    This story made me sick. I feel bad for his family and the thousands of lives that he's played a role in ruining. Sad to see where a few bad decisions have led. He had multiple chances and he chose evil instead of good. Here's a young man with tremendous promise who threw everything down the toilet. I'm glad he's going to have a long time to think about the consequences of his decisions. Really sad.

  • bamafone Salem, UT
    March 5, 2018 12:36 p.m.

    All drug dealers have the blood of murder on their hands and have destroyed many lives, they need to be locked up forever, or better yet, executed.

  • LivinLarge Bountiful, UT
    March 5, 2018 11:31 a.m.

    Drug dealers and cartel kingpins love addicted customers. It is their version of a highly profitable recurring revenue business model. Take my word for it, law enforcement knows far more than you think they know if you choose to engage in drug trafficing at any level...

  • Thomas Thompson Salt Lake City, UT
    March 5, 2018 9:05 a.m.

    That's one of the finest and most in-depth articles ever to appear in the pages of the Deseret News. My congratulations to the newspaper and its reporter on a very thorough job.

    That said, it's also one of the saddest stories I've ever read. Two very creative and talented young men, if found guilty, will have thrown their lives away for nothing. Both of them seem intelligent enough to have found a highly remunerative line of work that is also legal. I'm sorry for them both; but even more sorry for the many people, in Utah and elsewhere, who've been hurt by purveyors of toxic drugs like Fentanyl.

  • Kenngo1969 Pleasant Grove, UT
    March 5, 2018 12:06 a.m.

    “I’d want people to know I’m not like, a guy in a cartel, or some Pablo Escobar,” Shamo said earlier this month from the Weber County Jail in a series of interviews with the Deseret News. “My parents would say I’m a good kid.”

    I'm “late to the party,” as it were, and several commenters already have expressed similar sentiments, but . . . So, Mr. Shamo wants us to believe that he's a “good kid” because, unlike Pablo Escobar, Mr. Shamo has never actually seen any of the people he has killed (i.e., the ones who have overdosed on the drugs he distributed)? Hmm. Color me unconvinced. In a perverse way, actually, I have more respect for Mr. Escobar, because at least Mr. Escobar looked some of the people he killed in the eye before sending them to their deaths. Not so Mr. Shamo.

  • Smilee San Pedro Tlaquepaque, Jal.
    Jan. 19, 2018 10:34 a.m.

    It is sad to me that some people want this person to suffer. The suffering he has caused others is wrong yet it is right to cause him to suffer as a result to make it right!? I do not understand this logic. Prison is not a place to help someone become rehabilitated it is a place where people are abused!

    The other piece that amazes me is that the biggest drug dealers in the world pharmaceutical companies are able to make HUGE profits and sell drugs that thousands of people overdose on every year. But those people who overdose it is their fault not the pharmaceutical companies? I know one can say how they are more careful about how they make the drugs they sell .... Okay so if Aaron used more technical lab equipment it would be okay? Well pharmaceutical companies do not use Fentanyl as widely (yet) so if Aaron did not use Fentanyl he would not have been seen by some as a monster? Is the difference doctor prescriptions and regulations? People are still overdosing and dying who are taking prescriptions. The graphs and data they give on the article is not just for deaths attributed to Fentanyl or non prescription drugs.

  • KingmanAZ Kingman, AZ
    Jan. 1, 2018 9:24 a.m.

    What a powerful article on our war on drugs!!

  • utefan23 salt lake city, UT
    Jan. 1, 2018 7:51 a.m.

    This article makes me thankful for what I do have. I may drive a 18 year old truck, make a median income and own a old house. But I get to come home each day and see my wife and daughter. I can guarantee you that Aaron Shamo would trade all the money he ever had to be where I am at. My sincerest sympathies go out to him and I hope that in the next life, or even after prison, that he will be able to find peace, forgiveness and happiness.

  • burningblue Provo, UT
    Jan. 1, 2018 7:48 a.m.

    @belfastgirl

    I agree with you. There are some who get a little too concerned with how they are seen and have little concern for who they are. We need to do a better job as parents and friends of teaching what is truly important. Of teaching the things that bring true and lasting happiness.

  • burningblue Provo, UT
    Jan. 1, 2018 7:47 a.m.

    It seems like the consensus here is to crucify Shamo. Put him away for life! Make sure he never sees the light of day!

    If that happens, obviously he'll deserve it. He ran a drug cartel and his drugs probably took lives on a regular basis. But as the brother of a drug addict, I feel sympathy for Shamo, not anger.

    It's very easy to get lost. A similar thing happened to my brother, though he never sold drugs, he often used them to escape. We have this perfectionist culture in Utah that some kids have a difficult time measuring up to. Especially if they struggle with depression, anxiety, ect.

    I believe my brother would like us to forgive this guy. My brother when he got clean never held a grudge against anyone like this. He held a couple of grudges against his friends who used to pressure him to get high, but he forgave them.

    That's what I think we should do. Let this guy suffer the consequences for his actions and then forgive him. From the article, it seems like he was considering changing. Maybe his arrest is the Lord's way of humbling and reclaiming him.

  • belfastgirl Pine Valley, UT
    Jan. 1, 2018 3:56 a.m.

    I live in Southern Utah after having lived in Canada for over 6 years and have really noticed the difference in the population. Its not a good difference as I notice a lot more obvious druggy types hanging around the ball fields and other places of recreation. Obviously they are there to score or sell drugs and how do I know this? My husband has played with their fathers on softball teams and we hear the stories and kids who are well into their 30s hanging around because they are back living at home because they are just out of jail for drug or violent offences. The parents are again paying for rehab and trying to keep them in check. Easy quick money is the lure as actually working for a crust is considered beneath them. The Utah population is very, very materialistic and I have noticed with the older crowd that all they seem to care about is the car you drive and the number of homes you own. We have backed away from friendships because its tiresome to be around all the shallow. We do well in life but we value people for who they are and not what they have. These values have been taught to their children and they in turn are drawn to seemingly easy ways to make money .

  • hbean Billings, MT
    Dec. 30, 2017 11:13 a.m.

    My niece, Mary Kate, was living in Cottonwood Heights at a Sober living residence. She had been clean for 15 months. She relapsed and it took her life on November 21, 2016. Her autopsy revealed her cause of death was from Fentanyl! Pill were found next to her.

    Was this a coincidence....I don't think so! Do I feel sorry for him. The answer is NO.

  • USAlover Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 18, 2017 10:09 a.m.

    Probably the finest, fairest and most educational media article I've read in 30 years.

    If only more of our media could do work like this.

    This is upper level reporting. The DNEWS is on a great trajectory.

  • Procoug Layton, UT
    Dec. 18, 2017 8:54 a.m.

    What a sad story.
    They should offer him a deal and have him help bring down the others selling this stuff.

  • rroehale Salt Lake City, UT
    July 21, 2017 11:08 a.m.

    He doesn't wish jail on anybody; that's sure thoughtful of him. Does he wish addiction, despair, and death on people? He either must not care about the well-being of others, or he is willfully ignorant of the consequences of drug us to an almost impossible degree to believe.

  • MatthiasM Auburn, WA
    July 2, 2017 6:24 p.m.

    Much of the focus of comments here is looking in the wrong direction. The darknet angle isn't what's ripping through good middle class families in Utah. It's a big story, a sad story, but it's legit prescription use taken too far that's taking down people in all walks of life. Especially in communities that like to think it doesn't exist "here." The endless and escalating pursuit of material possessions attained via debt is a soul sucking and hollow pursuit. Even with "everything is awesome" current vibe following the 2008 crisis, stress, pressure, and crushing debt is an unseen danger causing pharma drug use to escalate.

    The answer isn't escalating a failed war on drugs that's cost trillions and hasn't slowed down the flow one bit. It's a demand problem. Though there is no easy answer, open and honest communication within families is a start. On a recent visit it was downright creepy, within families facing significant troubles, drugs being a component, the more animated and vehement the "We're doing so AWESOME. Wow, just couldn't be better." Things weren't awesome, and there was zero REAL communication, many families can't even be open amongst themselves. Solution is within.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 25, 2017 11:29 a.m.

    Excellent reporting and writing. Thank you so much for this superb bit of journalism!

    This highlights the fact that there will always be people willing to supply illegal drugs, and they must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That includes kingpins who make and distribute in quantity as Shamo allegedly did. But also those smaller dealers who peddle a handful.

    And, we must never accept illegal drug use as being non-criminal activity. While an addict may mess up their own life, the rest of society is victimized by bearing the economic, medical and social costs of the addict's dysfunctional life.

    One important bit of the story was the lady who was able to quickly score drugs at Pioneer Park. We can start by a 100% enforcement and "zero tolerance" policy for drug sales, possession or use in any public park, or any taxpayer funded building (e.g.- homeless shelters).

    There must be a war on illegal drugs at all levels, user, dealer, distributor, and manufacturer.

    Shamo's parents obviously tried hard to cure their son's problems, but were unsuccessful and are not to blame for his actions. They are victims too.

  • hopingtomakeadifference Orem, UT
    June 24, 2017 10:30 a.m.

    This alarming story was very informative. I appreciate being educated on what is really going on in the drug world. I have great sorrow for Aaron because his choices have led him to prison. And he should be there. Did he think it wasn't wrong? Was he a user also? Did he think he wouldn't get caught? But, having a son in prison I know how utterly hopeless that life is. My son has also explained how easy it is to get drugs into the prisons. Let's hope that Aaron doesn't get involved in that. Prison is hell where there are violence, drugs, murders and suicides. My son has watched inmates in the cell next to him die. Because of this I also feel great compassion for Aaron's family. I know how hard it is to visit my son in prison. I know how difficult this is for a family. You don't ever expect your son to end up in prison! I also have another son who sells and trades bitcoins and is trying to tell me that I should put more money into bitcoins to be prepared for any potential collapse of the economy. My heart goes out to Aaron, his family and especially to all of those addicted to drugs.

  • sineguelas Salt Lake City, UT
    June 23, 2017 7:02 p.m.

    Great investigative reporting, but it is important that you do not glamourize evil or it will lull certain readers and your article will end up persuading others to do the same. I am sure that with the talent this writing has demonstrated that it could find a way to do that. An article written in a neutral tone about a very evil undertaking isn't morally neutral. Also I quite feel there's too much emphasis about him being a good kid and the financial gains of such an undertaking. So this article tends to tell the story more from Shamo's point of view. Maybe in your next articles you could include something for the reader to understand the evil reality ofsuch an undertaking so the reader will actually see the bitter truth and undesirable fruits of it--like what devastation it causes-- and not just the attractive benefits. Tell evil for what it truly is! Now that is more accurate story telling.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    June 23, 2017 7:02 a.m.

    "No one raindrop thinks that it is to blame for the flood of incompetence."

    I don't have to be physically oozing slime everywhere I go to be slimy. Sliminess catches up to you one action at a time. You don't start out to be slimy. You aren't sitting in your basement giving an evil laugh and saying, "I am a criminal genius!" Bit by bit, action by action, you create your character.

    I don't know the statistics, but if he was the main source and if 30,000 people are dying a year, this guy could have killed dozens, hundreds, thousands. And he did it all from a nice, clean-cut, middle class existence.

    The good that comes from this story is that if he can do something so utterly rotten, without much of an effort then others can do great good without much of an effort from the comfort of their clean cut middle class lives.

  • catnip2u ALPINE, UT
    June 23, 2017 6:50 a.m.

    In reply to the comment about the legalization of marijuana I have two points to make.
    1. I have had a recent conversation with a local neurologist about medical marijuana for epilepsy. This is a person whom I would have thought might be for it. She was adamant about not even medical marijuana. She said neurologists see all the negative effects in the hospitals.
    2. I recently stayed in downtown Portland, Oregon where marijuana is legal and they pass out thousands of clean needles. I did a great deal of walking every day I was there. I literally stepped over and around countless homeless and addicted young people. It was heartbreaking. I did not feel safe and was even in a convenience store where another young man came in exclaiming about an attack one a guy by one of these addicted kids that had just happened half a block down the street.
    Thousands of needles that are supposed to be traded in for clean needles are just left laying around to the danger of all residents.
    Thank goodness they got Shamo locked up. Unfortunately he will be replaced much too easily and the death and destruction will go on.

  • Holycow Provo, UT
    June 23, 2017 12:13 a.m.

    It's just about the money. No responsibility taken for the devastation and fatal demise of users. Nice or not so nice?!

  • Holycow Provo, UT
    June 23, 2017 12:10 a.m.

    Very informative, but resist glamorizing the life of a drug kingpin. Focus on the thousands & thousands of lives that are ruined and cut short directly and all the lives of families that are indirectly affected. It's an ugly avoidable mess! Say ugh to drugs. Lock him up for life and throw the key in the deep dark ocean!

  • bamafone Salem, UT
    June 22, 2017 10:15 p.m.

    There is no sympathy for a cold calculating individual like this. He is certainly responsible for much suffering and most likely death through overdose. Locked up forever would be the least of the deserving scenarios that could happen to him, and other individuals like him.

  • SLCMom Salt Lake City, UT
    June 22, 2017 5:15 p.m.

    Holy Moly, Utah. You got drugs!
    This is a fascinating, educational, eye opening, and gripping story. I loved reading it. I learned a lot. I've pondered a lot. My mind is blown with how deep and wide this problem is!
    Thank you, DesNews. You've finally upped your game and are showing true investigative reporting skills. This is what "real news" looks like. Good job, and please keep it up!

    Mr. Shamo's life story is such a tragic tale of wasted potential. My heart goes out to his family who are obviously good people who love him and are devastated. He has parents who went above and beyond trying every kind of intervention they could find for this boy. Despite it all, for whatever reasons, this is a young man who has been continually drawn like a moth to the flame to the darker side of life. Eventually, these souls get too close to the flames and - thankfully for society - get caught. But, it's pretty overwhelming to think of how deep and wide this criminal activity runs. Let's keep shining light on this so we can fight it!

  • Cameron Dean Orem, UT
    June 22, 2017 4:22 p.m.

    "I never would've imagined I'd end up here." Really? So you're in your basement pressing pills that are killing people, and piled up next to you are bags and bags of money - over a million dollars - and you can't somehow, some way, summon up a scenario in your mind where you're sent to prison? Wow.

  • Surf is Up Miami, FL
    June 22, 2017 12:49 p.m.

    He says he isn't a person like Pablo Escobar etc. Perhaps he didn't have murder and hate in his heart, and that he would have drawn a line there; but his actions did hurt and possibly killed people. I guess he thinks because he doesn't know the end result of his actions that he can consider himself not as guilty.

    My goodness-- what the love of money will do to the conscience and souls of some people.

    I hope he can tap into the power of the atonement and wash this filthy stain away.

  • UtahTroutStalker Draper, UT
    June 22, 2017 12:42 p.m.

    Life sentence? Man, I don't want my taxes paying to house, feed, and provide medication to this guy while the Trump administration makes it harder for poor working people to even get insurance.

    Is there any evidence that his drugs killed anyone?

    Seize his money, put him in prison 5-10 years.

    Frankly if we would just legalize cannabis, opium/heroine, and low dosage cocaine we would be able to bankrupt the drug cartels, collect a ton of revenue that could be used on drug treatment, higher education, and infrastructure. Not to mention all of the really, really, really bad stuff like phentnyl, etc... is just a response to the illegalization of the less potent, less deadly stuff. Our laws are making the problem worse, not better.

  • H. Bob Salt Lake City, UT
    June 22, 2017 12:36 p.m.

    "The Rise and Fall of Aaron Shamo"? There's no "rise" here--just a sad fall from being a good kid to dealing in death and addiction.

  • HSTucker Holladay, UT
    June 22, 2017 11:06 a.m.

    Great story. This is a model for the kind of detailed investigative stories we want to see in the Deseret News, and not just about local crime (I have already suggested a handful to Ben Tullis).

    Well done.

  • HappyDad Cedar Hills, UT
    June 22, 2017 10:54 a.m.

    Someday in the future this guy is going to wake up to the horrible misery and destruction he caused in so many lives and then his real torment will begin. I feel bad for him, his accomplices, and all his victims.

  • Swaney44 Saratoga Springs, UT
    June 22, 2017 10:46 a.m.

    Very interesting story! It just goes to show this can happen to anyone. Small, seemingly insignificant decisions do lead us to our destinies. Choose wisely and act accordingly!

  • LivinLarge Bountiful, UT
    June 22, 2017 9:44 a.m.

    For users and suppliers to think they're not being investigated by law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels...they are wrong.

  • Sutton Cedar City, UT
    June 22, 2017 9:41 a.m.

    Wow! This is like an episode of Breaking Bad.

  • Tumbleweed Centerville, UT
    June 22, 2017 9:41 a.m.

    If an addict dies from drugs a drug dealer sells, the death penalty should apply. Furthermore, anyone arrested for any kind of drug offense should not get probation or parole until they divulge all information about who all their drug contacts are. If the authorities later find out they withheld information, their probation or parole should be revoked immediately. Furthermore, drug dealing should be classified in our state code as a forcible/violent felony. Incidentally, Great Job to John Huber and those who assisted in effectuating this arrest.

  • ImaUteFan West Jordan, UT
    June 22, 2017 9:24 a.m.

    If this guy sees himself as a "good kid", he truly is delusional. How many lives were lost from the pills he manufactured and shipped?

  • amigo sandy, UT
    June 22, 2017 8:52 a.m.

    Incredibly awesome story and oh yeah, Stephanie, your brother did not make a bad decision -- he made thousands of bad decisions and on a daily basis over a long period of time -- and put hundreds of lives in jeopardy. Send him away

  • California Steve Hanford, CA
    June 22, 2017 8:49 a.m.

    “I’d want people to know I’m not like, a guy in a cartel, or some Pablo Escobar,” Shamo said".
    Yes, Mr. Shamo, you are just like Pablo Escobar. Your actions took lives.

  • Austin Coug Pflugerville, TX
    June 22, 2017 8:04 a.m.

    Wow. So much $$$ for shipping some pills. So sad to think of the likely deaths caused by shamo and other drug dealers who obviously dont care what happens to their user. Such a tragedy for so many.