En route a world beard growing competition in Texas and caught as soon as he landed in Atlanta in August of 2017, Gal Valerius, a competitive beard grower and cyber whiz from the Brittany region of France, was confirmed to be ‘OxyMonster’.
On Tuesday at a hearing in Miami, he pleaded guilty for helping run a massive online drug market, overseeing the sales of kilos worth of coke, meth, heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone. Accessing the dark web via TOR browser and using Bitcoin or its cousin altcoins for transactions virtually guarantees anonymity.
Under his plea agreement, Valerius would be cooperating with the Federal prosecutors and Drug Enforcement Administration, in the hope of reducing his life imprisonment sentence in exchange for his insider knowledge.
The arrest, back in 2017, was the end result of an investigation of multiple agencies – DEA, FBI, IRS, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. He was accused of being a drug kingpin on the dark web, acting as an administrator for Dream Market, a marketplace for illegal narcotics including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines, and counterfeit consumer goods and stolen data.
He was traveling with his wife from France to Texas and landed in Atlanta, and upon landing his laptop was seized. The laptop revealed that he was the person behind the moniker ‘OxyMonster’, and also showed that he sat on a pile of Bitcoin worth $500,000.
Furthermore, Valerius was reported to have played the role of moderator on Dream Market, an online platform that allows drug buyers and sellers to anonymously strike deals throughout Europe and the US. It is more than just a marketplace for illicit drugs, providing technical assistance, resolving disputes and posting ratings of vendors on their platform. The authorities were only able to zero in on his identity because of the bitcoin address of ‘OxyMonster’ and analyzing the incoming and outgoing transactions from this address, the Miami Herald reports.
Cybersecurity firm ‘Recorded Futurehasve found that criminals on the dark web are using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin for their illegitimate business transactions. However, the Bitcoin is much more expensive now, and charges more fees for transactions, than it once used to. This has lead the criminals to opt for Bitcoin’s alternatives, or altcoins, the most popular being Litecoin and Dash, which Recorded Future reports is a digital coin that 30% and 20% of dark web vendors accept, respectively.