SALT LAKE CITY >> A Utah man pleaded not guilty today to charges alleging he helped run a multimillion-dollar opioid-drug ring that sent pills to people all over the country from a suburban Salt Lake City basement.
Drew W. Crandall, 30, shed tears during an appearance in federal court as a large group of friends and family looked on. He and his girlfriend were arrested when they landed in Hawaii to get married last month following a trip through southeast Asia and New Zealand, according to court documents.
Prosecutors say he helped alleged ringleader Aaron Shamo sell fake prescription-drug pills online to thousands of people, raking in at least $2.8 million. The pills were really fentanyl, the powerful opioid blamed for the death of entertainer Prince.
Crandall has been indicted on three counts, including conspiracy to distribute fentanyl. He is facing up to life in prison if convicted. His lawyer, Jim Bradshaw, declined to comment.
He is one of six people accused in the case that authorities say highlights how a relatively small outfit can quickly turn out hundreds of thousands of potentially fatal pills.
The group who met working at eBay is accused of buying drugs from China and pressing them into fake prescription drugs sold online. Four other people are also charged with helping package the drugs and send them to customers, often through the U.S. mail.
Agents seized nearly 500,000 pills from Shamo’s Cottonwood Heights, Utah, home, a bust that ranks among the largest in the country, authorities have said.
Prosecutors say agents found guns and more than $1 million in cash stuffed in garbage bags in the November 2016 raid, as well as the pills made to look like Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, and the painkiller oxycodone.