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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Illinois

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Brandon Aria, A/K/A "The Drug Llama," Sentenced to 9 Years For Distributing Fentanyl on The Dark Web

Earlier today, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Brandon 
Arias (a/k/a “The Drug Llama”) was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison for conspiring to 
distribute fentanyl throughout the United States via the “dark web.”1 The nine-year sentence 
represents the culmination of a prosecution that began in January 2019, when a superseding 
indictment was filed against Arias (34) and his co-conspirator, Melissa Scanlan (32).

The superseding indictment charged Arias with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, illegally 
distributing fentanyl (five counts), selling counterfeit drugs, and misbranding drugs. He pleaded 
guilty to all eight charges back in July. Scanlan has also pleaded guilty to her role in the 
conspiracy, as well as her participation in an international money laundering conspiracy and a 
separate count of aiding the distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. She is scheduled to be 
sentenced on Feb. 10, 2020. Both Arias and Scanlan have been in federal custody since their arrest 
earlier this year.

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.” The pair ran their illicit operation 
from their hometown of San Diego, California. During their nearly two-year run, Arias was actively 
involved in Scanlan’s distribution of 1,000 fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl pills every week. They 
raked in over $100,000 from their dark web drug trafficking and split the proceeds evenly.

Fentanyl is a highly addictive and oftentimes lethal opioid painkiller.

In recent comments, U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft assailed the culture of criminality that 
exists on the dark web. “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. 
But they will find no quarter there. Where they go, we will follow. With the collaboration of 
outstanding investigators at our partner agencies, we will use every tool and method available to 
find these people and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Footnote 1: The dark web is an underground computer network that is unreachable by traditional search engines and users. This false cloak has led to a proliferation of dark web marketplaces, like the one used by Arias.

“Illicit opioid distribution, whether online or through conventional drug distribution methods, and 
the resulting overdoses and deaths are a continuing national crisis; those who contribute to that 
crisis through their illegal actions will be brought to justice,” said Special Agent in Charge 
Charles L. Grinstead, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Kansas City Field Office. “We are fully 
committed to disrupting and dismantling illegal prescription drug distribution networks that misuse 
the internet at the expense of public health and safety.”

“Drug traffickers who operate from the dark corners of the internet are not immune from arrest and 
prosecution,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge William Callahan of the St. Louis Division. “The 
men and women of the DEA and our law enforcement partners are well positioned to investigate, 
locate, and arrest cyber drug traffickers, and their co-conspirators, who spread their poison in 
the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan area, no matter where they operate from.”

This case was part of a months-long, coordinated national operation involving the Food and Drug 
Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), the Drug Enforcement Administration 
(DEA), the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. 
Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, 
and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern Dist ict of Illinois. Assistant   U.S.
Attorney Derek J. Wiseman is the prosecuting attorney on the case.

Updated November 12, 2019