SALT LAKE CITY — A Midvale man who worked for the alleged head of international drug ring he ran out his Cottonwood Heights home admitted his role in the operation Monday in federal court.
Mario Anthony Noble, 31, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and conspiracy to distribute alprazolam in a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
Noble told prosecutors Aaron Shamo asked him to become the "backbone" of a store on AlphaBay, a darknet marketplace.
Prosecutors allege that Shamo made counterfeit prescription drugs in his basement, sold them on the darknet for bitcoin and then converted the digital currency to cash. During one 11-month stretch from December 2015 to November 2016, the operation mailed 5,606 orders totaling $2.8 million, court documents say.
Noble said Shamo recruited him to be in charge of customer service and processing orders for various drugs, including alprazolam tablets and pills marked as oxycodone but that contained fentanyl, according to court documents.
Shamo, he said, created a profile for him named DRWARIO and gave him partial access to Pharma-Master, Shamo's store on AlphaBay.
"Eventually, I was unable to keep up with the demands of my assignment, so Aaron Shamo hired another person, whose name I learned was Drew, to help with my responsibilities," according to Noble.
Drew Wilson Crandall is a co-defendant in the case.
Noble quit the job for a short time but started again in October 2016. Shamo, he said, hired him back part time at $800 every two weeks until authorities shut down the store in November 2016.
Noble said his daily duties included pulling together lists of customers, their mailing addresses and the types and quantities of drugs they ordered. He said he emailed the list in encrypted form to Shamo and others tasked with packaging and mailing the orders, according to court documents.
"My co-conspirators and I each had a role to play and we relied upon each other to meet our common objective: to earn money by selling drugs," Noble admitted in court documents.
Noble said he processed thousands of customer requests for tablets containing alprazolam and pills containing fentanyl.
The fentanyl charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison, while the alprazolam charge carries up to five years in prison. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
Noble is among at six people charged in connection with Shamo's alleged pill-making operation, including two others who are scheduled to enter plea agreements. Shamo and other defendants are scheduled to go on trial in August.