‘Drug Llama’ sentenced for selling painkillers on the ‘dark web’

The online drug dealer known as “The Drug Llama” was sentenced on Tuesday to serve nine years in federal prison for distributing fentanyl throughout the United States, including in Southern Illinois.

Brandon Arias, 34, of San Diego, received the sentence in federal court in East St. Louis, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Melissa Scanlan, 32, also of San Diego, pleaded guilty in the case last week and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 10.

Fentanyl is a “highly addictive and oftentimes lethal opiod painkiller,” the prosecutor’s office said.

“According to court filings, Arias and Scanlan created an account on ‘Dream Market,’ a dark web marketplace where users buy and sell illegal substances and services, and sold substantial quantities of narcotics under the moniker, ‘The Drug Llama,’” according to the news release.

“During their nearly two-year run, Arias was actively involved in Scanlan’s distribution of 1,000 fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl pills every week,” the news release said. “They raked in over $100,000 from their dark web drug trafficking and split the proceeds evenly.”

Arias pleaded guilty in July to five counts of illegally distributing fentanyl and one count each of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, selling counterfeit drugs, and misbranding drugs.

Arias and Scanlan were arrested earlier this year and have been in federal custody since then.

The “dark web” is described as an “an underground computer network that is unreachable by traditional search engines and web browsers,” the prosecutor’s office said.

“Criminals like Brandon Arias who recklessly flood our communities with opioids may think they can evade detection in the shadowy corners and back alleys of the internet,” U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft of the Southern District of Illinois said in a statement. “But they will find no quarter there. Where they go, we will follow.”

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and is from St. Louis.