Federal authorities say they have arrested and charged one of the biggest dealers of illicit drugs on the dark web and he was nabbed on his way to a beard-growing competition.
Gal Vallerius, 38, is a French national who is considered one of the most notorious internet drug kingpins, according to US attorneys, reports The Daily Mail.
Numerous federal agencies have been working for months to try and decipher the identity of OxyMonster, the alias used by an "administrator" of the Dream Market website, according to the Miami Herald.
Dream Market is a "dark web" marketplace similar to eBay whereby anonymous users buy and sell illicit items such as prescription drugs, narcotics, personal information, Bitcoin virtual currency and other contraband.
The US federal government alleges that Vallerius is behind the OxyMonster screen name.
Federal agents intercepted Vallerius as he flew from his home in France to the United States.
He was traveling to Austin, Texas, where he was set to take part in a world beard-growing championships.
On August 31, he landed in Atlanta, where agents detained him and placed him in custody.
"A border search of his laptop upon his arrival at Atlanta International Airport confirmed his identity as 'OxyMonster'," according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Federal agents said that a search of Vallerius' laptop showed that he used the Tor browser.
Unlike web browsers like Internet Explorer, Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, Tor allows internet users to remain anonymous while blocking sites that they visit from learning their physical location.
Investigators also said that they found log-in information for Dream Market on Vallerius' computer.
"The Dream Market website 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" the DEA said.
The government said that by the end of August, a visitor to Dream Market could browse through over 94,000 listings that included a range of substances including opioids, ecstasy and steroids.
Vallerius used his OxyMonster alias to allegedly ship drugs and other products to customers in Europe and the United States.
Investigators also said that they found $500,000 worth of Bitcoin on Vallerius' hard drive.
Authorities' big break in the case came when they were able to trace OxyMonster's Bitcoin transactions to a website used by Vallerius.
Agents also compared Vallerius' social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram and compared his writing style with that of OxyMonster on Dream Market.
"Agents discovered many similarities in the use of words and punctuation, including: the word 'cheers', double exclamation marks, frequent use of quotation marks, and intermittent French posts," according to the DEA.
Authorities are expected to transfer Vallerius from Atlanta to Miami, where he faces an indictment for conspiracy that could result in a life imprisonment sentence.
The federal government has devoted considerable resources in its hunt for Vallerius.
The investigation was a joint effort waged by a number of agencies, including the DEA, the FBI, the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security, and the US Postal Inspection Service.
The competition in Austin took place between September 1 and 3 at The Long Center for Performing Arts.
Vallerius had registered for the "full beard 30.1-45cm" category, according to The Guardian.
He was scheduled to be one of 738 competitors from 33 countries who were set to take part in a total of 27 competitions at the World Beard and Moustache Championships.
Participants and avid beard-growers recognised Vallerius' picture when it was flashed on the news in relation to his arrest.
They say he was a frequent user of an app known as Beard Wars, where players bet chips on their beard and competed against other players. Voters would choose the winner between the two beards.
MJ Johnson, one of Beard Wars' most prolific contestants who was also one of the winners of last year's beard championships, says that Vallerius used fictitious accounts to amass chips.
"You could see false accounts were getting created to make bets," said Johnson.
After hearing the reports about Vallerius' arrest, Johnson knew that he was also the person behind the fake accounts on Beard Wars.
"As soon as I saw the story and saw he was a computer guy it all made sense," said Johnson.
Johnson says he met Vallerius at the 2015 championships in Austria.
Vallerius came across as someone who "always seemed like a fun, carefree person", according to Johnson.
Whether Vallerius goes to prison or not, he will always have the respect and admiration of his beard competitors.
"I don't know anything about what other stuff he did, but as far as his beard goes, it's really awesome, long and bright red," said Johnson.