According to U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft, a San Diego woman has been indicted in Illinois for a fentanyl distribution conspiracy involving the alleged distribution of more than 50,000 “misbranded fentanyl pills” through the Dream darkweb marketplace. The indictment, in addition to the fentanyl distribution conspiracy, charged the alleged drug dealer with money laundering conspiracy.
Melissa Scanlan, 31, allegedly sold drugs from her home in San Diego, California, as early as October 2016. The indictment accused Scanlan of continuing to sell drugs on the Dream darkweb marketplace until August 2, 2018. She was arrested in San Diego and first appeared in the Southern District of California District Court on September 6, 2018. On September 17, 2018, Scanlan had her second appearance where she requested pretrial release. Prosecutors argued that Scanlan was a flight risk due to the severity of the charges and obligation to the Southern District of Illinois. They added that she was also a risk to the public and referenced the fentanyl distribution.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois, Scanlan sold on the Dream darkweb marketplace under the username “TheDrugLlama.” The Dream vendor account has been inactive since August 17 with the “retired” status. The owner of the account made the correct assumption regarding a possible investigation. The profile listed the following information in the about section of the profile:
“Due to several [package seizures], this account is retired for our safety and your safety. We really appreciated all our awesome customers and it was fun while it lasted but this Llama needs to work on complicated Llama things. We have heard good things about GypsyMagicPotions and they seem to have similar offerings. If you want to be a vendor we refer to send us a message.”
The investigation into Scanlan involved both the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the the Southern District of California. The investigation also involved more investigative law enforcement agencies than many similar cases. U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft thanked the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations; Homeland Security Investigations; Customs and Border Protection; and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Additional uncredited agencies provided assistance, as well, the U.S. Attorney said.
Scanlan has already been connected to the overdose of one woman and an unfortunate overdose of a 10-month-old baby.
The United States Food and Drug Administration provided leadership and technical resources as part of an ongoing investigation into the illicit opioid distribution, U.S. Attorney Weinhoeft said. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. said that the FDA would not stop pursuing opioid distributors and that they would investigate fentanyl dealers first and foremost. Scanlan, according to the indictment, sold misbranded fentanyl pills that looked similar to pills produced by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals specializes in opioid medication including oxycodone pills, hydrocodone pills, and hydromorphone products.
Scanlan, in addition to counterfeit oxycodone pills, allegedly distributed the labor inducing drug Cytotec (Misoprostol). According to the indictment, Scanlan sold more than 400 grams of fentanyl between October 2016 and August 2018. After buyers paid her through the Dream darkweb market, she allegedly laundered the proceeds through a contact in Mexico. This part of the operation was likely where Customs and Border Protection joined the investigation—very few darkweb vendors living in the United States have been investigated by the agency that conducts border crossing felonies.
U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman for the Southern District of California said that fentanyl dealers have nowhere to go that will prevent them from arrest. He pointed out that the anonymity they seek is only available on the darkweb and that the law enforcement will not cease to investigate darkweb dealers who think they are operating anonymously. The FDA Commissioner called darkweb drug distribution a “misuse of the internet” that the FDA will relentlessly disrupt.
Scanlan is currently in custody in California where a judge ordered her pre-trial detention. Prosecutors said that she will be transferred to the Southern District of Illinois in the coming weeks.