The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has arrested a suspected dark web drug dealer after he travelled to America from his home in France to compete in a prestigious beard and moustache competition in Texas.
Gal Vallerius, a 38-year-old Frenchman from Brittany, had intended to enter the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Austin, but instead of having the opportunity to show off his facial hair, was arrested when he landed at Atlanta International Airport at the end of last month.
Vallerius, who could be seen in various social media posts sporting an impressive red beard before his accounts were closed down after his arrest, is suspected of being a key administrator of Dream Market, a dark web marketplace where users can buy drugs, weapons and other illegal goods and services.
A DEA affidavit quoted by the Miami Herald, which first broke the story, said: “A border search of his laptop upon his arrival at Atlanta International Airport confirmed his identity as ‘OxyMonster’.”
The hirsute hipster’s hardware was also found to contain the Tor browser, his log-in credentials for Dream Market and Bitcoin worth around $500,000 ($422,664).
“The Dream Market web site is specifically designed to facilitate illegal commerce by working to ensure the anonymity of its administrators, as well as the buyers and sellers who participate in commerce on the website,” court documents state.
Vallerius’ detention came at the end of a multi-agency investigation that began back in February 2016, and involved DEA agents making undercover purchases of substances including methamphetamine, hydrocodone, LSD and other drugs from a number of sellers on Dream Market.
After identifying Vallerius’ “OxyMonster” account as being based in France, DEA agents were able to link a Bitcoin wallet to the bearded online drug baron.
Prosecutors argue that Vallerius played a major role in the operation of the site and was one its key administrators.
After choosing not to contest his detention during a hearing in Atlanta, Vallerius is expected to be transferred to Miami to face charges that could result in a whole life sentence.
“OxyMonster knowingly participated in the Dream Market conspiracy not only as a vendor, but also in a leadership and organisational role as a senior moderator and administrator,” the DEA affidavit said.
Earlier this month, Motherboard reported that Dream Market disappeared from the dark web for several hours, prompting users to voice fears its administrators had pulled an exit scam.
After the closure of AlphaBay and Hansa over the summer, Dream Market picked up thousands of users, making it the largest dark web marketplace left standing after police took down a number of its rivals.
Prior to leaving for the World Beard and Moustache Championships, Vallerius registered his facial hair in the “full beard 30.1-45cm” category.