A judge in the Florida federal court has ruled to suppress and hold cyber and electronic evidence in court linked to a criminal case against a French national Vallerius. The suspect is accused of presiding over several dark web illegal drug marketplaces. He reportedly gained entry into the United States last year to attend a beard contest.
According to the decision on Tuesday by the United States Judge of the Southern District of Florida Torres Edwin, he reaffirmed on a previous decision that holds United States entrants subjects to board searches of what they possess and questioning before clearing custom.
At the Federal Public Defender’s Office, the attorneys representing Vallerius in Miami indicated that United States entrants can claim rights under the fourth and fifth amendments to control what evidence law enforcement agencies can collect from a suspect’s personal electronic devices such as a phone or laptop at a border.
Federal agencies in Florida had been investigating dark web illegal drugs sales and linked cryptocurrency transactions when they suspected Vallerius –who wears a long bushy beard—to be a moderator of a dark web marketplace named Dream Market and going by the Moniker “OxyMonster”. He was arrested after disembarking from an airplane in Atlanta late last year.
According to the affidavit filed in court, investigators had previously identified Mr. Vallerius as OxyMonster after tracing transactions involving bitcoins made via the Dream Market. After keen comparison between his writing and posting style on his social media platforms and those on the dark web forum, his real identity was known.
Court documents further explain that Vallerius arrived from the United States when a federal agent pulled him aside for detailed questioning. He was asked to unlock his smartphone, iPad tablet, and a laptop as part of a routine inspection for potential contraband and child pornography. He complied and cooperated with the federal agencies and his devices were taken to an inspection room.
Vallerius’ attorneys’ stood to stop the evidence obtained at the search, since the defendant had been questioned and taken to custody without reading his Miranda rights. The incriminating evidence was collected in violation of the Fifth Amendment protections. They equally argued that the federal agent conducting the search required his consent to search his devices and instead tricked him into unlocking his devices lying that it was part of routine customs inspection. Moreover there was no search warrant violating the Fourth Amendment.
The Judge, however, rejected both arguments advising that the motion to forbid the use of the obtained evidence was invalid since Vallerius was not in custody for the purpose of Miranda protection and the U.S. government border authority always had a duty to question people seeking entry into the county.
”I have found that the consent by the suspect was voluntary and well knowing,” the judge concluded.
Vallerius has been indicted and he is being held in South Florida jail pending trial on dark web narcotics dealing-related charges. Anthony Natale who is his lead attorney at the Federal Public Defender’s Office said he had not consulted with his client yet about this decision but would definitely find an objection. The chief of international Narcotics and money laundering of the U.S Attorney’s Office in Miami, Mr. Antonia Gonzalez declined to comment on the case.