Couple Arrested Trying to Steal Friend’s Apartment Drug Lab

Police were dispatched to a reported apartment burglary to find a couple trying to steal a friend’s drug lab.

Burglary in process

Photo by: Informedmag

Cottonwood Heights police officers were responding to a call made by residents of an apartment building who thought someone was trying to break into a neighboring unit. When officers arrived, they found a pregnant woman and 37 year old Daniel Jeffrey Orton who attempted to run from police while throwing various drugs and paraphernalia. Officers located Orton and his vehicle and after a K-9 alerted to the presence of drugs, police searched the vehicle. While searching the vehicle, some of the responding officers started to feel sick and quickly realized there was a drug lab inside the car. After calling in a Hazmat team, officers found an incredible amount of drugs along with the hallucinogen DMT and the supplies used to produce it.

Mobile drug lab

Law enforcement was able to piece together that the apartment being burglarized by Orton and the pregnant woman was in fact owned by Orton’s friend who was serving time in jail. Police also suspected that the DMT drug lab found in Orton’s vehicle was likely taken from his friend’s apartment. Contamination testing will likely be ordered on the apartment to support this suspicion. Orton had allegedly been staying at the apartment while his friend was behind bars but as an eviction was closing in, Orton decided to pack things up and get out. It was during this commotion that neighbors alerted police.

Clandestine Laboratory

Photo by: New York National Guard

Orton was arrested and booked in Salt Lake County Jail on charges of possessing clandestine laboratory precursors and equipment as well as intent to distribute. Utah Code 58-37d-4 states: “It is unlawful for any person t knowingly or intentionally:

(a) Possess a controlled substance precursor with the intent to engage in a clandestine laboratory operation;
(b) Possess laboratory equipment or supplies with the intent to engage in a clandestine laboratory operation;
(c) Sell, distribute, or otherwise supply a precursor chemical, laboratory equipment, or laboratory supplies . . . ,
(d) Evade the recordkeeping provisions . . . knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the material distributed or received will be used for a clandestine laboratory operation;
(e) Conspire with or aid another to engage a clandestine laboratory operation;
(f) Produce or manufacture, or possess with intent to produce or manufacture a controlled or counterfeit substance except as authorized. . . ;
(g) Transport or convey a controlled . . . substance with the intent to distrubte. . . ;
(h) Engage in compounding, synthesis, concentration, purification, separation, extraction, or other physical or chemical processing of any substance. . . ;

[Anyone found possessing or operating a clandestine laboratory] is guilty of a second degree felony punishable by imprisonment for an indeterminate term or not less than 3 years nor more than 15 years.”

Drugs and pregnancy

While the name of the pregnant woman wasn’t officially released, she was said to have been transported to the hospital. This is likely due to the damaging effects being around the drug lab could have on her unborn child. Once the woman is discharged from the hospital, it is possible she will face drug charges as well as child endangerment. Additionally, if her child is born with drugs in its system or suffering any effects due to the mother’s drug use, she will face additional charges as well as the risk of losing custody of her child. For more information or legal counsel regarding criminal charges related to controlled substances, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Counterfeit Pain Pills More Dangerous Than Originals

Thousands of counterfeit pain pills confiscated during a massive drug bust turned out to be more dangerous that the original prescriptions the bogus pills were imitating.

Distribution of pain pills

Drug bust

Photo by: Bill Brooks

Just a couple days prior to Thanksgiving, a man renting a home in Cottonwood Heights, Utah was arrested for what authorities are calling one of the largest drug busts in Utah’s history. The thousands of pills that 26 year old Aaron Michael Shamo was making and selling daily were being designed to look like popular pain pills such as Percocet and OxyContin, but instead contained an ingredient far more addictive and dangerous than oxycodone – Fentanyl. Detectives believe Shamo had sold and shipped the counterfeit pain pills throughout Utah as well as around the nation over the course of several months. The pain pills containing fentanyl could have reached millions of people over that span of time.


Fentanyl is referred to as prescription heroin since users feel many of the same effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes fentanyl as “a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.” Due to this high potency, fentanyl is extremely dangerous and carries a greater risk of death. The CDC  stated that the “DEA describes fentanyl as a powerful narcotic associated with an epidemic of opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States.” By taking black market pain pills without knowing the actual ingredients, an increased number of individuals are likely to overdose. Those who are frequent users of pain pills may receive a high from the counterfeit pain pills containing fentanyl. Others who have a lower tolerance to opioids may suffer respiratory distress and die from a single pill.

Utah’s prescription drug problem was bad enough

pain pillsUtah has a major prescription drug problem. According to the Utah Department of Health, “Every month in Utah, 24 individuals die from prescription drug overdoses. Utah ranked 4th in the U.S. for drug poisoning deaths ( . . .)” They also stated that “59% of deaths from prescription pain medications involved oxycodone”. With so many drug overdoses from oxycodone itself, how many more would die when counterfeit pain pills containing fentanyl are taken instead? The sad reality of Utah’s prescription drug problem is most of the residents who abuse prescription drugs got their start with a legal prescription from a doctor. Unable to fight the opioid’s addictive quality, many of those individuals turn to street drugs or street pills. Instead of receiving the help and rehabilitation they need, they may be getting a deadly dose of fentanyl.

Help on the horizon?

For those who have family or friends who are suffering from addiction, there is hope when a loved one takes one dose to many. Not only did Utah pass the Good Samaritan Law, allowing persons to report an overdose of another without fearing their own prosecution, but there are overdose reversing drugs such as Narcan (nalaxone) that can be prescribed to someone who is close to an addict. Narcan can safely reverse an overdose to heroin or opioids and is responsible for saving over 150 lives so far in Utah alone. Unfortunately however, the overdose reversal drugs are no match for high potency fentanyl, such as the as counterfeit pain pills being distributed in high quantities by Aaron Shamo.


Photo by: Peretz Partensky

According to the CDC, “Multiple doses of naloxone [Narcon] may be needed to treat a fentanyl overdose because of its high potency.” If the person administering Narcan to a fentanyl overdose patient or loved one is unaware of the need for additional doses to combat the fentanyl, the victim may still die.

Education and treatment

With so many Utah residents suffering from addiction and dependency on pain pills, it is vital that those afflicted receive the help they need through residential drug treatment facilities. These facilities should be accessible to all either by voluntarily checking themselves in or if facing charges such as possession of schedule II drugs, mandatory treatment should be issued instead of jail time (for where little to no rehabilitation is available). To discuss drug charges and options for treatment, contact a criminal defense attorney. For a list of drug rehabilitation centers throughout Utah, contact the Department of Health.