Utah prosecutors say 28 deaths probed in opioid-drug ring case

Utah prosecutors say 28 deaths probed in opioid-drug ring case

(Tooele County Sheriff's Office)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Authorities are investigating 28 overdose deaths that could be connected to a multimillion-dollar opioid drug ring based out of a suburban Salt Lake City basement, prosecutors said during a court hearing Monday.

No charges have been filed in the deaths, but Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gadd argued that a defendant accused of helping to run the scheme should stay in jail amid the ongoing investigation.

Lawyers for Drew Wilson Crandall, though, said prosecutors haven't shown evidence linking him to those deaths. He's been painted as a criminal mastermind when he actually made less than $65,000 during the two years he worked for a longtime friend, said defense attorney Jim Bradshaw.

His parents, active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said they would put up their dream house in Draper as collateral if he's released.

"To me, that's how you solve these problems, is you deal with them and you deal with them uprightly and with integrity," his father, Greg Crandall testified. Crandall, who cried during the hearing, does not have a criminal history.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball said he planned to rule in the coming days.

Crandall was stymied by depression and anxiety growing up but had gotten engaged while on a trip with the girlfriend who helped distance him from alleged ringleader Aaron Shamo, his family and friends testified. Crandall was arrested as they touched down in Hawaii for the wedding after the backpacking trip through southeast Asia and New Zealand.

Prosecutors, though, see that overseas trip in a different light: as a way to avoid agents investigating the online drug ring that once raked in $2.8 million in less than a year.

Prosecutors say Crandall was Shamo's partner, providing customer service in online sales of the powerful opioid fentanyl disguised as prescription drug pills on the dark web — an area of the internet often used for illegal activity.

Shamo's lawyers also say it's a leap to link overdose deaths to the case, especially when several substances or underlying health conditions could be involved.

Crandall has been indicted on three counts, and faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted on one, conspiracy to distribute fentanyl.


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