Alleged dark web drug kingpin arrested after flying to US to compete in world beard competition

Gal Vallerius was travelling to the US for a beard competition when he was arrestedGal Vallerius/Twitter profile image

A suspected dark web drug dealer from France was arrested by US authorities last month after travelling to America to compete in the World Beard and Moustache Championship.

However, hirsute Gal Vallerius, 38, never made it through Atlanta International Airport.

On 31 August, he was caught by police and linked to the online persona "OxyMonster", which was previously used to sell drugs on an illicit underground market on the dark web, designed in the same vein as eBay.

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A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) affidavit filed in September said that Vallerius was an administrator, senior moderator and vendor on the platform.

He is now accused of "supporting daily illicit transactions between buyers and vendors such as the trafficking in narcotics and laundering in the proceeds of their activities using bitcoin".

Between May 2015 and August 2017 the suspect allegedly distributed drugs including cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine, LSD and oxycodone.

At the very end of August, Vallerius travelled to the US for the first time to attend an international beard competition based in Austin, Texas.

But the brown-bearded contestant was stopped after being flagged in the airport thanks to a distribution complaint previously filed in Miami federal court.

When officials searched his laptop they "confirmed his identity" as OxyMonster.

His laptop was found to contain log-in credentials for Dream Market, roughly $500,000 worth of the cryptocurrency bitcoin, and a PGP encryption key entitled OxyMonster, the affidavit said.

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Previously, DEA agents made covert purchases of crystal meth, LSD and hydrocodone from Dream Market vendors and received shipments to mailboxes in Miami via US mail.

While investigating the website, they found a forum post written on 23 July 2016 by OxyMonster in a topic titled "Official Staff", which quickly made him a person of interest.

At the time, his attached profile listed 60 prior sales and multiple five star reviews from buyers. The description said that the vendor shipped from France to "anywhere in Europe".

It was bitcoin transactions, the DEA said, that eventually linked OxyMonster to "multiple wallets controlled by French national Gal Vallerius" via the website Localbitcoins.com.

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Agents said that they matched writing styles, punctuation and wording using his social media.

According to the Miami Herald, the suspect admitted his identity after being confronted with the police results from the airport search. He is now expected to be transferred from Atlanta to Miami to face a fresh conspiracy indictment which will carry up to life in federal prison.

According to the DEA affidavit, the probe was the work of the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the United States Postal inspection Service (USPIS).

US authorities have been cracking down on dark web marketplaces like Dream Market and earlier this year a joint task force disrupted two large underground shops, AlphaBay and Hansa.

As of 29 August 2017, there were a total of 94,236 listings on Dream Market.

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