While awaiting extradition to the Southern District of Illinois for allegedly selling more than 50,000 fentanyl pills on a darkweb market, a San Diego, California, woman found herself at the center of several fatal overdose cases in the same county. One case, in particular, has attracted media attention as one of the faces of the so-called ”opioid crisis” in San Diego; in this case, the victim who fatally overdosed was only 10 months old.
Melissa Scanlan, 31, was arrested in San Diego, California, for selling fentanyl to buyers throughout the United States, for various crimes involving counterfeit medication, and for laundering money through international sources. In late September, United States Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft if the Southern District of Illinois, U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman for the Southern District of California, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., and DEA Special Agent in Charge William J. Callahan jointly announced the return of a nine-count indictment by a federal grand jury that accused Scanlan of operating the Dream darkweb market vendor account “TheDrugLlama.”
The Drug Llama, on the Dream darkweb market, sold a wide assortment of illegal substances. She focused primarily on the distribution of illegal fentanyl pills sold as “M30” oxycodone hydrochloride pills from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. She offered other opiates as well; morphine pills and Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen) were on the vendor’s profile. Although Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Hobson, in a statement to the press, did not provide information regarding the legitimacy of the other opioids. In the opioid category, The Drug Llama also sold a product called “the opiate powder pack.”
Opioids were the primary focus of the investigation and have been the cause of at least two overdoses allegedly connected to The Drug Llama, but opioids were not the only type of substance listed on the vendor’s Dream profile. TheDrugLlama also offered Adderall, Temazepam, Flexeril, and Cytotec. For some reason, the indictment accused Scanlan of selling misbranded Cytotec (misbranding of drugs charge) but never acknowledged TheDrugLlama’s other drug sales. Fentanyl pills were the primary target. Law enforcement agencies throughout the United States have been collaborating in an effort to end the careers of fentanyl dealers. And dealers with a potential body count are often the first to go.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Hobson, fentanyl pills sold by Scanlan led to the fatal overdose of a 10-month-old baby in San Diego County in late 2017. According to authorities, Scanlan sold counterfeit fentanyl pills to the child’s father. On September 18, 2017, the father and mother of the deceased child called the police after waking up and finding their child unresponsive in their bed. An investigation later revealed that the father had purchased the pills from The Drug Llama and had accidentally left them within reach of the baby. The son, during the night, had accidentally ingested enough pills to kill a grown adult.
Another San Diego resident overdosed on September 5, 2017. She texted a drug dealer that day and told him that she would “finally be able to get some sleep.” The 41-year-old never woke up the next morning. The police arrested the dealer she had texted the night of her fatal overdose and discovered that he had been selling the same counterfeit pills that The Drug Llama had been selling. These are the pills that Scanlan has been accused of selling on the darkweb.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Hobson said that even though Scanlan has not been charged in connection to deaths, investigators suspect that Scanlan had a hand in both San Diego overdoses and perhaps additional overdoses throughout the United States. Law enforcement in California is currently investigating Scanlan in connection with both overdoses as well as similar occurrences involving the counterfeit oxycodone pills that Scanlan admitted to purchasing from a “Mexican cartel.” The Assistant U.S. Attorney explained that the particular counterfeit oxycodone pills purchased by Scanlan are a significant threat to drug users near the Mexico border.