CHICAGO (WLS) -- Melissa Scanlan, a fentanyl dealer known as the "Drug Llama" who was convicted in Illinois, is making a play to get out of prison.
Scanlan is serving 13 years and is asking for compassionate release despite having run a lucrative cartel-connected fentanyl business based on the dark web.
Scanlan's co-defendant has already been denied a similar compassionate release request claiming COVID was too dangerous to stay in prison.
In 2018, the Drug Llama was moving 50,000 fentanyl pills over the dark web from her home in Southern California, according to federal prosecutors in Southern Illinois where she faced a drug and money-laundering case. When she was arrested and locked up, Scanlan was five months pregnant.
As the I-Team first reported, Scanlan sold the fentanyl that ended up killing a 41-year-old woman in Southern California. Adrienne Wood, a regular customer of the Drug Llama, died of an overdose in September 2017.
Now, Scanlan is asking for compassionate release from a California prison. The details of her request are sealed by court order but her co-defendant made a similar request claiming COVID made it too dangerous to remain behind bars.
Federal records however show only one current COVID case here at the Victorville Medium Security facility in San Bernardino County, yet the Llama is asking to be set free.
"During COVID there was an explosion of filings by incarcerated defendants saying that because of COVID they should be released early because of the risks imposed but those numbers are already beginning to dwindle," said Gil Soffer.
Former Chicago federal prosecutor and ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer says the rush to release prisoners during early days of the pandemic has settled down.
Federal data tonight shows 1,300 COVID prison releases in 2020 -- almost two thirds of all granted motions for compassionate freedom mention COVID; a number that fell slightly in 2021 and appears to be plummeting in the latest figures.
"People are still playing the COVID card and they're meeting with less and less success," Soffer said.
Federal prosecutors have until the end of the year to respond to Scanlan's request and no decision is expected until 2023. Monday, Scanlan's attorney told the I-Team he hasn't spoken with her lately and that she filed the motion for mercy on her own.