Gone are the days you went down a dark alley and exchanged $10 for a “dime bag” of weed. Drug dealing has gone international, using the dark web and bitcoin, and they are selling much more than marijuana.
Gal Vallerius, a French international drug dealer, was recently sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his elaborate online drug trafficking scheme. He pleaded guilty in June when arrested upon entering the US en route to Texas for a world beard-growing competition. Turns out he is a professional beard grower as well as an international drug trafficker. Makes you wonder if he’s ever smuggled drugs, or an exotic pet, in that beard.
Dream Market and the OxyMonster
On the dark web resides something known as the Dream Market, one of the largest criminal sites for anonymous buyers and sellers to do underground, illicit transactions. At the time of the Vallerius investigation, there were over 47,000 illegal drug listings on Dream Market. One of the vendors, OxyMonster, sold drugs and acted as a platform for others to buy and sell drugs, using virtual currencies, such as bitcoin. OxyMonster sold a wide range of drugs, including cocaine, heroin, Ritalin, methamphetamine, oxycodone and fentanyl. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents were very interested in arresting OxyMonster, since the platform had already sold nearly a million dollars in drugs. But it wouldn’t be easy or straightforward.
Stinging the Bearded Monster
DEA agents ran a sting operation, buying crystal meth, LSD, and hydrocodone from OxyMonster through Dream Market, having the product delivered to various addresses in and around Miami. Agents then compared OxyMonster’s writing style to other sites on Instagram and Twitter, and found they were substantially similar to Gal Vallerius’; they both used similar words and punctuation, such as the word “cheers,” double exclamation marks, frequent use of quotation marks, and intermittent French posts, according to court documents. DEA agents nabbed Vallerius when he entered the US via Atlanta on his way to the beard-growing competition. In case you were wondering, Vallerius was entered in the “full beard” category.
Leniency Granted. Was It the Plea or the Beard?
Though the DEA’s evidence seems somewhat circumstantial, Vallerius pleaded guilty and his wife begged for mercy. The judge ordered Vallerius to 20 years in prison and to surrender the 100 bitcoins and more than 121 units of bitcoin cash that he had received in the OxyMonster drug sales. At current rates, that’s over $700,000. The 20 year sentence was about half the maximum allowable sentence, so perhaps the guilty plea, and the wife’s pleading helped. Or maybe the judge loved his beard.
Drug trafficking is no laughing matter. If you or someone you love has been arrested on a drug charge, contact a criminal defense attorney at once. Whether it is a first offense or third strike, pot for dollars or meth for bitcoin, a good criminal defense attorney can make a huge difference in your criminal case outcome, and beyond.
- Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near You (FindLaw’s Lawyer Directory)
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- What is a Bitcoin? Drug Dealers Taking Advantage of ‘Legal Gray Area’ (FindLaw Technologist)