A Dodgeville man was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in federal prison for distributing nasal spray infused with fentanyl, the powerful opioid drug, over the Internet — a product he marketed toward opioid addicts like himself, including a Florida man who died after using it.
Michael S. Schoenmann, 31, said tearfully to members of the family of Wyatt Cox, gathered in U.S. District Judge James Peterson’s courtroom, that he was “so sorry.”
“I know that rings hollow,” he said. “I just wish I could go back in time and bring him back and change everything but I can’t.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Przybylinski Finn and Schoenmann’s lawyer, federal defender Peter Moyers, agreed to recommend a 12-year prison sentence.
“This case represents yet another tragedy in the opioid crisis, the fentanyl crisis in this country,” Przybylinski Finn said. “This is real life.”
Schoenmann, who struggles with opioid addiction himself, created a site on the dark web called U4IA — pronounced “euphoria” — to sell the fentanyl nasal spray, telling shoppers he was an addict himself and that he was supporting fellow addicts.
The fentanyl was disguised as a nasal spray, Przybylinski Finn said, so the drug could be hidden from the families of addicts. She said Schoenmann shipped it to people all over the country, including Florida, where Cox lived.
“This is poison,” Przybylinski Finn said. “And he sold this poison to Wyatt Cox, and Wyatt Cox died. And now he’s got to live with that.”
Cox’s mother, Melissa Cox, of Rochester, Minnesota, could barely speak as she described for Peterson the devastation her family has felt since her son’s death.
“My dearest Wyatt, my son,” she said. “I have no words. My heart has a huge hole. My life will never be the same.”
Cox’s sister, Shelby Cox, also of Rochester, told Schoenmann that while she thinks he preyed on the weaknesses of those who are addicted, she forgives him.
Peterson said he was “moved and impressed” by her statement of forgiveness, but told Schoenmann he took risks with the lives of others.
“In your case, you are a person with a disease, which explains who you are and what you did,” Peterson said. “Your disease is also your responsibility, and you have not managed your disease well at all.”
Cox, 25, died on Dec. 26, 2017, at his home in Port Charlotte, Florida. Police there contacted police in Boscobel because a package Cox had received containing the nasal spray appeared to have come from a Boscobel business. The return address was a ruse, however.
Analysis of the mailing label by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service linked it to similar mailings from collection boxes in Mazomanie, Spring Green, Gotham, Lone Rock, Madison, Hollandale and Dodgeville. IP addresses used to track the packages were linked to the Internet service at Schoenmann’s home.
A parcel bound for Milwaukee was intercepted, and the recipient told investigators about Schoenmann’s site on the dark web, which investigators then used to make an undercover purchase and arrest Schoenmann.