Woman called 'Drug Llama' charged in Illinois as boss of illicit fentanyl network

ByChuck Goudie and Christine Tressel WLS logo
Friday, September 21, 2018
Woman called 'Drug Llama' charged in Illinois as boss of illicit fentanyl network
Melissa Scanlan, 31, operated a drug network from the dark web according to federal authorities in Illinois.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A woman known to her internet customers as "The Drug Llama" is headed to Illinois to face federal charges that she shipped illegal fentanyl pills to downstate customers.

Melissa Scanlan, 31, is charged with the sale of more than 50,000 pills nationwide since October, 2016-allegedly from an e-business that she had set up on the so-called "dark web," the internet's underbelly that is popular with criminal racketeers.

Scanlan on Thursday afternoon appeared in federal court in San Diego, California where she lives and was arrested Sept. 4 on the Illinois warrant. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jan. M. Adler ordered that "The Drug Llama" be moved to the Southern District of Illinois to face prosecution.

Investigators in Southern California say she is also being investigated for selling the fentanyl that caused two, separate overdose deaths there: a 10-month-old boy and a 41-year old woman in San Diego County. The 10-month-old died when his father left fentanyl, allegedly sold by Scanlan, too close to the baby, according to authorities.

Fentanyl is extremely potent and dangerous, said to be 50 times stronger than heroin and fatal in small doses.

Between April and July, undercover agents from downstate Illinois, St. Louis and San Diego, say they purchased nine items from "The Drug Llama" on a section of the dark web called the Dream Market. The drugs were shipped to them from an address traced to Scanlan, investigators said.

When authorities searched her San Diego home last month, federal agents say she admitted to obtaining the pills from a Mexican cartel and that she once boasted being able to sell up to 500 opiate pills at a time.

The drugs were allegedly shipped in leather pouches, similar to those that were sold by Scanlan in a previous online business including money clips, leather business card holders and laptop cases.

An article written under Scanlan's name and photo in May of 2016 describes numerous illicit methods of obtaining prescriptions drugs, including the use of the dark web. At that time, Scanlan said she knew the legal dangers of such purchases and advised against it.

"Buying drugs you do not have an RX for is illegal if your package gets caught by USPS or any other logistics services, I would think they would report it to law enforcement and or put you on some watch list like with the DEA," the article stated. "Mail Crimes are pretty serious should the governement (sic) want to prosecute, and most troubling is you don't know what your buying is legitimate or counterfit (sic) a good example of counterfit (sic) drugs going bad is the Norco in San Jose recently killing people because it was actually Fentanyl made to look like 10mg Norco."

The Illinois indictment alleges that Scanlan was part of an international money-laundering conspiracy.

She is also about five months pregnant, authorities said.