Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known to many as “La Barbie,” received a 49-year sentence for crimes committed while serving as a ranking member of a Mexican drug cartel. The 44-year-old drug kingpin pleaded guilty to various charges, including conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine as well as money laundering.
Nicknamed La Barbie for his green eyes and blond hair, Valdez was arrested in Mexico eight years ago as part of a raid by Mexican federal police. He was brought to the U.S. to face charges in 2015. Per an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, authorities accused him of importing 12,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States and sending millions of dollars back to Mexico.
“You have betrayed almost everything that is important in our country,” said U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey at Valdez’s sentencing. “There’s not a single person in this courtroom who doesn’t believe what you’ve done is despicable.”
Initially, Valdez was up against a life sentence for his crimes. However, prosecutors asked the judge to give him a break for accepting a deal to plead guilty. Valdez received credit for the eight years he had already spent in prison, including the time behind bars in Mexico.
“My parents taught me right from wrong and to stay away from drugs,” Valdez said in court. “Instead of good, I went the other way.”
Born in Laredo, Texas, La Barbie started small by dealing drugs in his teens while attending Laredo United High School. Valdez eventually became a top-ranking member of the Beltran Leyva gang, a drug organization that once had close ties with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel, according to Fox News.
After gang leader Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed in a gunfight with Mexican Marines in 2009, Valdez fought with Beltran Leyva’s brother Hector for control. The war left many dead bodies in the streets of Cuernavaca and Acapulco.
Valdez was ultimately captured in August 2010 in a home outside Mexico City. Mexican officials described La Barbie as “one of the most wanted criminals in Mexico.”
In court, Valdez’s sister Carla, an assistant district attorney in Texas, asked the judge for leniency. She described her brother as someone just caught up in the “financial struggles” experienced by the family. She said Valdez was only trying to help out when the drug dealing started.
In addition to the 49 years La Barbie will spend in prison, the judge ordered restitution of $192 million. If Edgar Valdez Villarreal behaves himself in jail, he will be eligible for release when he is around 80 years old.