Fake Pill Operations Growing and Causing Deaths


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Illegal pill making operations are popping up in Utah and around the country according to the DEA. A week after a major bust in Cottonwood Heights agents are warning of the dangers of pills which often look like real prescriptions.

26 year old Aaron Michael Shamo was arrested in the Cottonwood Heights bust. According to court documents some of the items found were a pill press, Fentanyl, and around 95,000 counterfeit pills that looked like OxyContin and Xanax.

During his first appearance in Federal Court on Monday Shamo was ordered to stay behind bars for now. DEA District Agent for Utah Brian Besser said the agency is continuing to investigate where the pills form Cottonwood Heights operation were sent.

“We’ve verified that those pills had been mailed to numerous locations across the United States, and we are still trying to verify if he had any business dealing abroad,” said Besser.

Besser said just one kilo of Fentanyl shipped from China and mixed with fillers can make 700,000 – 1,000,000 pills. It can bring in millions of dollars in profit. Criminals often don’t mix it right, and the slightest amount of Fentanyl over a proper dose can be deadly.

Besser compares the issue to making a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

“If you’re throwing in a bunch of chocolate chips into the cookie dough, and you’re mixing it around in a very unsystematic fashion,” said Besser. “There is no way to regulate how many chocolate chips are getting into each cookie.”

Part of the investigation is looking into recent overdose deaths around the country to see if they’re connected to the pill making operation in Cottonwood Heights.

Besser said this is directly related to the opioid addiction epidemic. Pill making operations are a direct result.

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