French ‘dark web’ drug dealer arrested en route to beard competition
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Gal Vallerius of France, 38, was arrested 31 August in the United States after travelling there to compete in a world beard-growing championship.
Alleged dark web drug kingpin Vallerius was arrested at Atlanta International Airport as he was travelling from France to attend this year's World Beard and Moustache Championships in Texas, as first reported by US daily the Miami Herald.
Vallerius is a suspected administrator of Dream Market, an online marketplace for buying and selling drug paraphernalia and illegal narcotics such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines, according to the US daily. The dark web site, inaccessible through standard web browsers, allows users to make deals in the US and Europe while concealing their identity.
US authorities searched the bearded Frenchman’s belongings upon his arrival in Atlanta, according to the investigation. During a border search of his laptop computer they were able to confirm his identity as “OxyMonster”, a Dream Market username also listed as a moderator for the web site. Agents also found roughly $500,000 worth of bitcoin, the virtual currency used for anonymous transactions on the marketplace.
The arrest was the fruit of a months-long investigation conducted jointly by half a dozen US agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as reported by the Miami Herald.
A DEA affidavit consulted by the US daily describes Dream Market as a web site “specifically designed to facilitate illegal commerce by working to ensure the anonymity of its administrators, as well as the buyers and sellers who participate in commerce on the web site.” The affidavit goes on to allege that “OxyMonster knowingly participated in the Dream Market conspiracy not only as a vendor, but also in a leadership and organizational role as a senior moderator and administrator.”
The Miami Herald reveals that agents were able to link Vallerius to the username OxyMonster through bitcoin transactions. Investigators also analysed OxyMonster’s posts with those of Vallerius’s Instagram and Twitter accounts to compare writing styles.
“Agents discovered many similarities in the use of words and punctuation, including: the word ‘cheers,’ double exclamation marks, frequent use of quotation marks, and intermittent French posts,” according to the DEA affidavit.
Vallerius, at an Atlanta court hearing, decided not to contest his identity or detention, according to the investigation. The Miami Herald reports that he is expected to be transferred to Miami, where the complaint was filed, to face a separate conspiracy indictment there that could land him life in prison.
Authorities say it was the first time Vallerius had travelled to the US. He had signed up to compete in the “full beard 30.1-45 cm” category at the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Austin, Texas, according to the Guardian.
The Frenchman’s arrest came as part of the US government’s larger crackdown on dark web marketplaces. In July, the Justice Department announced that the dark web marketplaces AlphaBay and Hansa both sites for the buying and selling of illegal narcotics and illicit items such as guns had been seized and shut down.
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