Suspect in Darknet Fentanyl Distribution Ring Denied Bail

Opioid Drug Ring Charges for Wilson Crandall
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31-year-old Drew Wilson Crandall from Brisbane Australia is one of the defendants in a six-member fentanyl distribution ring that was based in Utah. Crandall and a co-defendant Aaron Michael Shamo, a 27-year-old from Utah, partnered to start the fentanyl distribution business and later recruited four individuals to help in operating the expanded business. According to their indictment, the two ordered fentanyl and alprazolam from China via a darknet marketplace site. U.S. Attorney for the district of Utah revealed that the prosecution had connected the defendants to Pharma-Master, an Alphabay vendor who sold fentanyl-laced pills. Prior to his arrest, Crandall had fled to Australia after learning of Shamo’s arrest. He was, however, arrested in Hawaii in May and made an initial appearance in federal court in Salt Lake City a month later.

Crandall was on November 21, denied bail by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball. In the ruling, the judge indicated that he worried Crandall would resume his drug distribution business once released.

During Crandall’s detention hearing, prosecutors said that authorities had an ongoing investigation on 28 fentanyl-related overdose deaths and Crandall would interfere with them if released. The prosecution alleged that Crandall helped Shamo in selling fentanyl online in a scheme that once brought in $2.8 million in an 11-month stretch from December 2015 to November 2016. They allege he provided customer service in dark web sales of fentanyl disguised as prescription pills. It is easily sold because the small amounts are not easily detecting and Fentanyl is distributed using the US Postal Service.

In Crandall’s defense, his attorney Jim Bradshaw said that Crandall could not have been the mastermind of the fentanyl distribution ring since he only made $65,000 in the two years he worked with Shamo. The defense also indicated that the prosecution did not show evidence linking Crandall to the 28 deaths. Fentanyl has been directly linked to multiple deaths around the world, making it one of the most potent and deadliest darknet drugs worldwide. Crandall’s parents who are staunch Christians and law-abiding citizens, offered their house as collateral if Crandall was released.

Judge Kimball noted that Crandall has a strong family network but indicated that it is impossible for his parents to tell of his whereabouts correctly. To prove this, he said that Crandall had been presenting himself as a good man to his parents, while secretly participating in the fentanyl distribution ring.

Judge Dale A. Kimball of Utah

To justify his ruling Kimball said that Crandall’s charges were too severe, Crandall had worked with the fentanyl ring for too long and that he had allegedly attempted to interfere with the investigations earlier.

Crandall has three charges; conspiracy to distribute Alprazolam, conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute fentanyl. Conspiracy to distribute fentanyl carries a minimum of 10 years in prison.

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