'La Barbie' pleads guilty in Atlanta, faces life without parole

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'La Barbie' pleads guilty in Atlanta, faces life without parole

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Alexandre Meneghini
FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2010, file photo, Federal Police escort Texas-born fugitive Edgar Valdez Villarreal, center, stands during his presentation to the media in Mexico City. Villareal, known as "La Barbie" because of his light eyes and complexion, appeared before a federal judge Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Atlanta. He pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine and conspiring to launder money. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini, File)

The American who became a drug lord in Mexico, a murderous, ruthless smuggler known as "La Barbie" because of his light complexion, blondish hair and green eyes, faced an American court in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Edgar Valdez Villareal, born in Texas and nicknamed La Barbie by his high school football coach, used submarines, aircraft and more prosaic means of transportation to smuggle truckload upon truckload of cocaine from Mexico to metro Atlanta until his arrest in 2010. He sent competitors messages with videos of beheadings and armed his men with military hardware: rocket-propelled grenades, high-caliber automatic weapons, night-vision goggles and more.

He became almost a cult figure in Mexico, as many of the top narcos do, and consorted with some of the most powerful and notorious men in the drug trade there.

On Wednesday, La Barbie stood before a federal judge in Atlanta and pleaded guilty to three counts. He will be sentenced later and is facing life in prison without parole.

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