This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A Utah man was arrested Tuesday afternoon after federal agents raided his two homes and found thousands of illegal fentanyl pills inside.
Aaron Michael Shamo, 26, of Cottonwood Heights, was charged with possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute, according to a federal complaint distributed by the U.S. attorney's office of Utah. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines.
Officers from several agencies, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Guard, searched Shamo's Cottonwood Heights home, near 7900 South and 3200 East, Tuesday. They found a pill press and "bulk powdery substances" believed to be fentanyl, the federal complaint states.
Agents also searched a South Jordan home, near 11400 South and 4600 West, purportedly used by Shamo as a "stash location." There they located about 70,000 pills "that have the appearance of oxycodone" and more than 25,000 pills that look like Xanax, the complaint says. Based on prior investigations, officers believe the oxycodone-like pills are also fentanyl, an illicit and potent synthetic opioid, disguised to look like a somewhat weaker drug.
"The biological effects of the fentanyls are indistinguishable from those of heroin, with the exception that the fentanyls may be hundreds of times more potent," according to a DEA description of the drug.
A hazardous-materials team was on the scene Tuesday to process the chemicals and seized items.
"Due to the extreme dangerousness of fentanyl, agents have not yet been able to test the substances seized at the Shamo home," according to the federal complaint.
Shamo apparently had packages from China sent to other individuals over the past year to avoid detection. Agents seized "several of the packages," tested the contents and found that one contained at least 120 grams of fentanyl.
DEA spokesman James Gothe told The Salt Lake Tribune that the warrant to search the homes would be sealed until Wednesday.
Shamo is accused of packaging the pills and mailing them throughout the U.S. His initial court appearance is set for Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead.