Frenchman on way to US beard contest faces charges of 'dark web' drug trafficking
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A Frenchman from Brittany was arrested on drug trafficking charges in the United States while en route to an international beard competition in August after being tracked for months on the “dark web”.
Gal Vallerius, 38, travelled from France to the United States to compete in the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Austin, Texas. Upon his arrival at Atlanta International Airport on August 31, Vallerius was arrested by US authorities on a drug trafficking complaint filed in a Miami federal court.
Vallerius was allegedly an “administrator” and a “moderator” on Dream Market, a dark web site that allows users to buy and sell drugs in Europe and the United States anonymously, federal prosecutor Francisco Maderal told the Miami Herald.
“A border search of his laptop upon his arrival at Atlanta International Airport confirmed his identity as ‘OxyMonster’,” according to a Drug Enforcement Administration affidavit, “Oxy” being a slang term for the oxycodone opioid pain medication.
Vallerius’s laptop also contained the Tor browser, which conceals internet protocol (IP) addresses; his log-in information for Dream Market; and $500,000 in bitcoin digital currency.
Vallerius did not contest his identity or his detention at a court hearing in Atlanta, the Miami Herald reported. He is expected to be transferred to Miami to face conspiracy charges that could carry a penalty of life imprisonment.
Tracked on the dark web
Several US law enforcement authorities – including the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service tax agency, Homeland Security and the US Postal Inspection Service – had been involved in tracking the movements of the bearded man from Brittany.
DEA agents logged on to the Dream Market forum in January and found “OxyMonster” listed as a senior administrator, the Miami Herald reported. Over the summer, agents identified OxyMonster as a vendor who shipped from France to destinations throughout Europe and the United States. By August, agents had identified that OxyMonster was using a certain bitcoin address for the transactions and that most of them went to Vallerius.
The DEA soon also identified Vallerius’s Instagram and Twitter accounts by matching them to OxyMonster’s writing style, including frequent use of the word “cheers”, a penchant for using double exclamation points and the appearance of intermittent posts in French, the Herald said.
His social media accounts have since been suspended.