Update: Gal Vallerius has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Coverage here.
Gal Vallerius, who hails from France, was arrested recently by United States law enforcement for his alleged involvement in the dark web drugs trade. The arrest took place at the airport where Vallerius had come to attend the World Beard and Moustache Championships.
Vallerius, who sports a flaming red beard, was attending the event when law officials took him in. The arrest was done under suspicion of Vallerius being a kingpin of sorts in the darknet drugs trade. Some of the drugs that were allegedly pushed by him through dark web marketplaces were cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and others.
During an Atlanta court hearing, Vallerius did not contest his identity; in fact, he cooperated fully with the authorities. He is to be transferred to Miami where he faces a separate charge that could land him with a lifetime sentence.
The law enforcement action was the result of a collaborative investigation involving multiple agencies, starting in 2016. During the course of the case, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) made orders of hydrocodone, crystal meth and LSD from several dark web vendors, including some on Dream Market, to try and identify the mastermind behind the drug peddling.
Through this operation, they were able to discover the usernames of all those who were working behind the scenes.
A Dark Web Vendor Named “OxyMonster”
The dark web has long been a safe haven for criminals to sell illegal goods, from weapons to drugs. In the last few years, however, law enforcement officials have started focusing on breaking down the walls that protect dark web criminals.
Through several operations taking place simultaneously, they have been able to take several online drug dealers into custody and even bring down entire dark web marketplaces.
Gal Vallerius is not considered to be the traditional drugs kingpin, as he managed Dream Market as a moderator and an admin. Therefore, he knew about the exchange of illegal goods and chose to participate in their sale. He went under the name of “OxyMonster,” and that same ID was the key element behind his arrest.
The authorities were able to tie his dark web marketplace ID to his real one by making use of his Bitcoin transaction history. Some of these transactions went to cryptocurrency wallets registered under his name.
Once the law officials were able to link his online ID and his real one, they started tracking down his social media accounts, such as Instagram and Twitter, to see if his writing style matched with that of OxyMonster.
They found many similarities in the way the sentences were structured and came to the conclusion that Vallerius and OxyMonster were both the same person. One word that really struck out was “cheers,” which both used profusely while writing. Other common elements were the usage of quotations and intermittent French.
While the writing style in itself cannot be of much help in the court, it helped to bring everything together so as to give enough cause for the arrest.
The World Beard and Moustache Championships
Vallerius’ visit to the beard and moustache event was his first time coming to the U.S. The dark web drug dealer had intended to participate in the championship with his lustrous flaming red beard. He was one of 27 people to participate his category.
His arrest came as a slight shock to several members who were attending the event. Bryan Nelson, who was the host of this year’s Beard and Moustache Championships, thought the whole incident to be very dramatic. According to him, this year’s event had more than 700 participants from all over the world.
While Nelson never met Vallerius in person, he instantly recognized his photograph. Interestingly enough, Nelson found out about the arrest from an app titled “Beard Wars.”
In Beard Wars, people would bet on their beards using chips, competing against others’ beards. The rest would vote on who has the best beard and the winner gets all the chips.
Nelson and his friend were recurring champions in the app, until a man named “Barba” came along and started stealing their glory. One person even stated that fake accounts were used to make bets as Barba was amassing lots of chips very quickly. In a few weeks, he had more chips than Nelson and his friend combined which did raise some suspicion. But it was soon forgotten due to the casual nature of the game.
However, after seeing Vallerius being taken into custody by police, both of them felt vindicated as Barba and Vallerius turned out to be the same person. Nelson’s friend had actually met Vallerius in 2015 when the championship was held in Austria. According to him, Vallerius seemed like a fun and carefree person who rocked some great facial hair.
Vallerius’ case is the latest chapter in the huge crackdown by law enforcement officials on the dark web drugs trade.
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