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Suspect in opioid drug ring loses bid to get out of jail

November 21, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man accused of helping run a multimillion-dollar opioid drug ring based out of a suburban Salt Lake City basement lost his bid Tuesday to get out of jail pending trial.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball said Tuesday in a ruling that he worries 31-year-old Drew Wilson Crandall would go back to running an online operation that poses “life-threatening danger to the community.”

Prosecutors said Monday during a hearing about Crandall’s detention that authorities are investigating 28 overdose deaths that could be connected to the ring. No charges have been filed in the deaths, but prosecutor Michael Gadd brought it up as part of his argument that Crandall should stay in jail as the investigation is ongoing.

Crandall’s parents, active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he could live with them and work for the mother’s catering business while out on supervised release. They also offered to put up their dream house in the middle-class Salt Lake City suburb of Draper as collateral if he’s released.

Kimball noted the Crandall’s strong family network, but said it would be difficult for them to monitor the activity of their son who has a history of keeping his parents in the dark by portraying himself in “the best possible light to his parents while acting in his own self-interest.”

“It was obvious to the court that defendant’s parents are good and honorable people who have repeatedly helped their son through challenges. The court also does not doubt that defendant’s parents would be honest and forthcoming with any difficulties that may arise during a pretrial release,” Kimball wrote. “But defendant’s parents’ law-abiding conduct is not transferrable to defendant.”

Kimball also justified his decision by citing the serious nature of the charges, the fact that Crandall participated in the ring for more than one year and allegations he obstructed the government’s investigation.

Prosecutors say Crandall helped alleged ringleader Aaron Shamo in selling the powerful opioid fentanyl online in a scheme that once raked in $2.8 million. They say he provided 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.

Lawyers for 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, defense attorney Jim Bradshaw said.

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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