He was in the country because of his beard.
It was hard to miss, a showstopper, holy-man thick and dropping to his belly button. When Gal Vallerius stepped off a plane from France last month in Atlanta, he was on his way to the 2017 World Beard and Moustache Championships in Austin. It was his first trip to the United States.
But the 38-year-old Frenchman did not make it. Federal authorities were waiting on the ground at the airport, ready to pounce on the accused dark web drug dealer they knew as “OxyMonster.”
According to court documents filed this week, Vallerius was taken into custody in late August. His laptop was searched, yielding a Tor browser to access the dark web and $500,000 worth of bitcoin. And there were other clues linking Vallerius to the “OxyMonster” accounts on Dream Market, a Pirate Bay-style online black market.
After an initial appearance in a Georgia federal court, the accused drug trafficker was transferred to Miami, where he faces a charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. The arrest comes follows a wave of similar prosecutions from the U.S. Department of Justice, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made dark web crime a high priority.
Vallerius is also not accused of merely using dark websites to traffic drugs. According to an affidavit filed by an Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Vallerius also acted as “an Administrator, Senior Moderator, and Vendor on Dream Market, playing a critical role in supporting daily illicit transactions between buyers and vendors.”
The court affidavit states investigators had been poking around Dream Market since early 2016. Earlier this year, investigators noted a list of administrators and moderators on a Dream Market forum. “OxyMonster” was listed as a senior moderator.
Further searches on the account showed “OxyMonster” was selling Oxycontin and Ritalin on the site, with “60 prior sales and five star reviews from buyer,” the records note. “In addition, his profile stated that he ships from France to anywhere in Europe.”
It was not difficult for investigators to discover “OxyMonster’s” identity. The account featured a digital “tip jar” for bitcoins. Agents then “conducted analysis of the incoming and outgoing transactions from that bitcoin address and learned that 15 out of 17 outgoing transactions from the ‘OxyMonster’ tip jar went to multiple wallets controlled by French national” Gal Vallerius.
Armed with the name, investigators found Instagram and Twitter accounts for Vallerius. They compared the writing style from the social media accounts with “OxyMonster” prose on Dream Market. “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,” the affidavit states.
The documents with the court, however, do not indicate whether investigators actually purchased drugs from the account. The affidavit, however, notes that law enforcement knew Vallerius was coming to the states for the beard competition. They were waiting.
Court records indicate the defendant has yet to make an appearance in Miami. According to the Miami Herald, Vallerius is among a half-dozen other deep web prosecutions in the South Florida court in the past year.