Dream Market Mod Enters Plea Bargain in U.S. Court
The fall of the dark net marketplace known as “Dream Market” was yet another nail in the coffin of the online drug business. Following the continued efforts of combined law enforcement agencies all over the world to stop the illegal marketplaces from functioning on the dark web, several leading facilitators of illicit narcotic trade have been taken down, and many leading executives jailed or arrested.
Dream Market had a fair share of the trade volume for a variety of dangerous and prohibited substances. In addition to the regular marijuana, cocaine, and pills, the site was host to the sale of counterfeit electronics, money, and other stolen items of extreme value. Like many dark web marketplaces, the exchange allowed its customers to purchase items from sellers using cryptocurrencies, which maintain the anonymity of both parties as much as possible.
Additionally, the site offers an escrow service to hold funds before a transaction is successfully completed and verified, and can only be accessed using the Tor Browser, which masks the IP and identifying information of the visiting computer to better secure anonymity for the user. This isn’t uncommon for darknet bazaars; in fact, it is standard. But the setup creates a unique situation of difficulty for law enforcement agencies. Despite this obstacle, the U.S. government was successful in apprehending Gal Vallerius, a lead moderator on the Dream Market.
Investigation Of Vallerius
Dream market has been under investigation by the DEA and the FBI of the United States since the market’s creation in 2013, according to the US criminal complaint filed against them. In February of 2016, the agency was able to identify many of the main drug dealers operating on the site, including DigitalPossi2014, MethForDummies, and ReximusMaximus.
Using the same strategy employed in similar investigations by the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Agency created fake accounts and purchased drugs from the vendors, ordering the narcotics to undercover addresses which served as the front for their long-term investigations into the dealers’ operations. These drugs included crystal meth, hydrocodone pills, as well as LSD in a Miami operation spanning a significant length of time.
The agents were eventually able to identify “OxyMonster,” an administrator and vendor who made his money on the illegal bazaar for illicit substances. It was eventually discovered that the user’s official title was “Senior Moderator.” In addition to being a senior moderator on the site, he also listed a variety of drugs he planned to sell in his own narcotic trading operation.
The DEA used blockchain analysis technology to track incoming and outgoing transactions in order to ascertain the identity of Gal Vallerius, who linked all of his accounts to a central account on Localbitcoins, which listed his actual identity in plain text. Additionally, cross-analysis of writing style on Dream Market with social media posts components helped to confirm his identity.
Arrest, Prosecution, And Plea Bargain
Upon visiting the United States for a beard and mustache competition, Vallerius was intercepted by authorities working for the Drug Enforcement Agency. After examining his computer, investigators found the TOR browser, Dream Market login information, a PGP key with his Dream Market username on it, as well as over half a million dollars in Bitcoin.
The charges against him included conspiracy, both in the trade of drugs and in the facilitation of the massive Dream Market for illicit substances. Initially, the prosecuting team sought life imprisonment for the laundry list of potential violations which they could pin on Vallerius. However, the drug dealer pled down to two charges, which might get him around twenty years of jail time, aside from a huge list of fines.