‘Drug Llama’ pleads guilty to distributing fentanyl in East St. Louis federal court

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A man known as “The Drug Llama” online has pleaded guilty to distributing fentanyl throughout the United States, including in Southern Illinois.

Brandon Arias, 34, of San Diego, admitted that he was one of two individuals selling the drug on the “dark web” from October 2016 to August 2018, a news release from U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois Steven D. Weinhoeft stated.

In January, a grand jury indicted Arias and the other person behind the account with one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, five counts of illegally distributing fentanyl, one count of selling counterfeit drugs and one count of misbranding drugs. According to the release, Arias was arrested in San Diego and made his first appearance at the federal court house in East St. Louis on March 12.

On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to all eight charges against him, the release stated.

The other person, Melissa Scanlan, 31, also of San Diego, was charged in September of last year in relation to the conspiracy and maintains her innocence. According to the release, her trial is set for Aug. 27 in East St. Louis.

Arias admitted in his guilty plea hearing that he was actively involved in Scanlan’s distribution of 1,000 fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl pills per week. The release stated that the two used the “Dream Market,” a dark web marketplace for illegal substances and services.

Arias’ sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 29 at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis.

Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.