Gal Vallerius, the former Dream Market moderator known on the dark web as “OxyMonster,” has been sentenced by a United States court to 20 years in prison.
When Vallerius, a French national, travelled to the U.S. last year to attend a beard-growing competition, he was immediately arrested upon arriving at an Atlanta airport.
Security personnel apprehended him for his alleged role in aiding drug-dealing activities through Dream Market.
After his apprehension and enough evidence to implicate him gathered, there have been a series of other investigations and court cases for the past year.
They culminated in a trial in a Miami court earlier this month, when he was sentenced to 20 years in a U.S. prison.
The verdict that will now see 36-year-old Vallerius spend the next two decades in prison was ruled by U.S District Judge Robert Scola nearly four months after he pleaded guilty to money laundering and drug-related charges.
Vallerius’ sentencing took place earlier this month at a Miami federal court, and when asked to comment, he opted to remain quiet.
He, however, gave very brief responses in Hebrew throughout the hearing of his case.
In the court room, he still had his unique and styled reddish-brown beard and a beige yarmulke on the top of his head.
The decision by Judge Scola came about after getting suggestions from Assistant Public Defender Anthony Natale and State Prosecutor Tony Gonzalez.
He then agreed, after consultation, to sentence Vallerius to 20 years and not the supposed 40.
In his remarks, Judge Scola commented that indeed the case is serious because the offender aided the trafficking and distribution of large quantities and different types of drugs over the years he had been operating on the market.
Vallerius would ship drugs from France to other countries in Europe and the U.S. since that is where there is a concentration of individuals using the dark web to procure drugs.
The ruling came as a shock to Vallerius’ wife, Yasmin, who sent a letter to Judge Scola requesting him to have mercy on her husband.
Yasmin Vallerius pleaded with the judge by highlighting that given what has transpired, she is confident that her husband will not repeat the same mistake of involving himself with illicit activities.
OxyMonster’s Cooperation Crucial to Having a Reduced Sentenced
The case which has received global attention from both international and local media outlets in Vallerius’ home country, France has been keenly followed by a vast majority of darknet users who might at any time face the same situation.
Even though he has given authorities some cooperation throughout the process, Gonzalez, the federal prosecutor, says he has still not yet shed enough light that will ultimately lead to more arrests and perhaps the ultimate fall of Dream Market, and therefore he does not deserve a reduced sentence beyond the agreed-upon 20 years.
Tracking Down Darknet Kingpins, Operators, Vendors & Buyers
The fight against market admins, sellers and buyers over the past few years has indeed been an uphill task for law enforcement agencies that spend time and resources to narrow down on suspects, ultimately leading to their arrest.
Operations, depending on the target, tend to involve a few security personnel drawn from a single federal agency to hundreds drawn from multiple security bodies.
For the case of the French darknet moderator, the operation that led to his arrest and final sentence involved various officials from multiple federal agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security and the U.S Postal Inspection Service.
As part of investigations on Dream Market, agents from the DEA engaged themselves in undercover tactics and purchased drugs from the site on multiple occasions.
Surprisingly, irrespective of what they buy, they ended up receiving their package via the U.S. mail, an indication that ordering and receiving drugs on the dark web is not complex.
With that said, these undercover tactics are popular among law enforcement personnel involving themselves in certain types of investigative processes.
It is however notable that this mode takes time and it does not always yield results.
On the hand, as much as law enforcement officials are trying as much as possible to up their game, they are not doing it at a proportional rate of people using the dark web to perpetrate fraud, drug trade and other illegal activities.
This is the primary reason as to why the use of the dark web for illicit undertakings is growing tremendously.
Though no matter what transpires, a small blunder will at some time cost darknet users a host of consequences.
Just as is the case with Vallerius, and other darknet admins, buyers and sellers who have been arrested and prosecuted in the last couple of years for their alleged roles in taking part in illegal activities.
It appears that the trend will keep going on for as long as darknet markets are up and running.
As of now, there is no permanent solution to the problem.
So what is needed is a remedy that will keep the situation in check and prevent it from escalating in a manner that will cause more harm.
Small Mistakes Turning out Costly
Vallerius’ mistake could be be likened to that of Silk Road founder Ross William Ulbricht, who is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S.
At first, for federal officials to narrow down on the French suspect and identify him as the mastermind behind the pseudonym OxyMonster, there were a series of clues that he left revealing his identity, and the same was the case for the Ulbricht.
Among them is stylistic similarities in posts from his Instagram and Twitter profiles with that of his Dream Market account.
When investigative officers did an analysis, they found that the manner in which OxyMonster posted announcements in the Dream Market forum is the same manner in which he did so in his social media profiles.