- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gal Vallerius, a French national arrested by U.S. authorities en route to last year’s annual World Beard and Moustache Championships, pleaded guilty Tuesday to counts of narcotics trafficking and money laundering related to his involvement in running Dream Market, a site on the dark web that lets users buy and sell contraband ranging from heroin to hacking tools.

Known online by the alias “OxyMonster,” Vallerius, 36, rose through the ranks of Dream Market between 2013 and his arrest last September, starting off as a vendor who sold prescription drugs Oxycodone and Ritalin and ultimately becoming one of the website’s administrators and senior moderators, he conceded in court documents filed in tandem with his guilty plea Tuesday in Miami federal court.

Prosecutors will recommend that Vallerius spend 20 years behind bars, according to the agreement reached in the case — half of the statutory maximum, and a far cry from the potential life sentence he risked facing prior to cutting a deal with investigators this week.

As part of his plea deal, Vallerius has agreed to cooperate fully with investigators, including but not limited to testifying against other suspected drug dealers and working in an undercover capacity, the agreement said.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola has set a sentencing hearing for Sept. 25, nearly one year after Vallerius was apprehended by U.S. authorities at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport while traveling to to compete in the facial hair contest in Austin, Texas.

Investigators had suspected Vallerius was the Dream Market vendor and administrator known as “OxyMonster” prior to taking him into custody, and a subsequent search of his laptop seized after landing on U.S. soil found data confirming his identity, the Drug Enforcement Administration said previously.

While Vallerius personally sold only two types of prescription drugs to Dream Market users, prosecutors argued that he helped run the website during a span in which other dealers moved nearly 3,500 pounds worth of narcotics including heroin, cocaine, crack, meth, Oxycodone, Ritalin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid considered several times more lethal than heroin.

“In connection with his role as a ‘senior moderator,’ [Vallerius] also sold controlled substances to other members using the website, receiving payment for these sales through the use of a bitcoin ‘tip jar,’ or electronic depository,” a magistrate judge previously said while summarizing the prosecution’s case. “It was through this tip jar that law enforcement officials became aware of Vallerius’ true identity.”

Addressing the court Tuesday, Vallerius said he was saddened that the conviction will keep him from spending time in the U.S. besides within prison walls.

“It is unfortunate. … I cannot enjoy this beautiful country and everything it has to offer,” he told the court, The Associated Press reported.

Dream Market touted a total of 94,236 listings shortly before Vallerius was arrested in 2017, including 47,405 categorized under “drugs,” the DEA said at the time. Today, the site boasts 122,993 listings, including 62,026 listed under the drugs category.

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