Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as the “La Barbie” drug lord, has been extradited to the United States. Valdez has been at Mexico’s Altiplano maximum security prison for the past several years, the same facility where Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was held until his escape this past summer.
The “La Barbie” drug lord was a key player in Arturo Beltran Leyva’s organization, notes Fox News, until Beltran died in 2009. Edgar Valdez Villarreal then led his own group until his 2010 arrest. He was convicted and imprisoned in Mexico in 2011, but he is also facing charges in the U.S.
The New York Times details that Valdez is originally from Laredo, Texas, but he went to Mexico for the drug business. His “La Barbie” nickname came during his school days in Texas, as he was teased that he looked like a Ken doll.
During his days growing up in Texas, Valdez played high school football. However, he also embraced the opportunity to start dealing drugs in Texas, and he eventually became one of the most successful Americans in the Mexican drug trade.
Even during his days in Texas, Valdez ran afoul of the law. As a teen, there were arrests for public drunkenness and drunk driving, details the New York Times. In addition, the “La Barbie” drug lord was charged with criminally negligent homicide at the age of 19 for an incident where a school counselor was run over by his truck as it traveled down the road the wrong way.
However, Valdez wasn’t indicted in the truck incident. Though his father reportedly offered to send him to college, Valdez instead dealt marijuana and fled to Mexico to stay out of jail.
Valdez became known for some of the most vicious acts playing out in Mexico’s drug war. His tactics included videotaping the torture of those who crossed him and his squad, sometimes decapitating them on film.
The “La Barbie” drug lord was one of 13 men extradited to the U.S. on Wednesday, reports indicate. The move does seem to be tied to the mess generated when “El Chapo” escaped, as Guzman’s extradition had been requested by the U.S. just weeks ahead of his escape.
Rather than send El Chapo to the U.S., however, Mexico wanted to try him at home. He has been missing since his July 11 escape, and he has even taunted authorities via Twitter at times since disappearing.
Valdez is wanted on drug charges in both Louisiana and Georgia. Another drug leader, Jorge “El Cross” Costilla Sanchez, was extradited as well. The group also includes a handful of men connected to murders of U.S. federal employees or the family members of employees.
NBC News indicates that Valdez was set to be handed over to U.S. Marshals upon arriving in the States on Wednesday night. He faces charges in Georgia related to charges of laundering money and distributing cocaine. The Lousiana charges are said to be similar.
Edgar Valdez Villarreal certainly made a name for himself as a key figure in the Mexican drug business. He is known for the chaos he brought to Acapulco with the drug trade, and for some time there was a significant award made available for his arrest.
Though El Chapo and La Barbie were allies once upon a time, and later bitter rivals, InSight Crime details that they coordinated efforts once again from behind bars at Altiplano. They seemingly orchestrated a massive prisoner hunger strike in 2014 that involved almost 1,000 inmates.
Given El Chapo’s escape, it seems that the U.S. became quite intent on getting Edgar Valdez Villarreal and many other similarly high-profile prisoners brought back to the U.S. from Mexico. The Justice department indicated that a June meeting between Mexico’s Arely Gomez and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch laid the groundwork for this week’s extraditions of the La Barbie drug lord and others in the group.
[Photos by Daniel Aguilar / Getty Images]