DEA agents
Photo: CMG file photo
Photo: CMG file photo

Bull-rider turned ‘relentless’ drug kingpin gets prison time in Atlanta

The drug trafficking empire had speedboats, submarines, airplanes and, of course, trucks. That’s where Carlos Montemayor came in. He’d moved to the U.S. from Mexico and built a prominent trucking company, starting with legal freight for years — until he teamed up with Edgar Valdez-Villareal, the infamous kingpin known as La Barbie.

Nearly 20 years after the partnership began, Montemayor, 47, who served as Valdez-Villareal’s operations chief in America, is headed to federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta announced Thursday. Judge Leigh Martin May sentenced Montemayor to 34 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for cocaine trafficking and money laundering.

“Today’s sentencing of Carlos Montemayor is a victory for the citizens of this country,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Atlanta leader.

Montemayor grew up the son of a restaurateur and a homemaker on a modest Mexican ranch, according to court records. As a teen, he raised show horses and rode bulls in the rodeo. By 18, he had a green card and moved with his wife from Nuevo Laredo, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, to Laredo, Texas, on the other side of the Rio Grande. He got a job at a trucking company, learned the business and, two years later, started his own.

He “was the embodiment of the American Dream,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.

In 2002, Montemayor, who’d made $4 million in the past decade, decided he wanted more. He partnered with Valdez-Villareal, the brutal enforcer for the Sinaloa and Beltran-Leyva cartels, who is said to have once been the highest-ranking American-born member of a Mexican cartel. Valdez-Villareal, a former Texas high school football player, had plenty of cocaine from sources in Colombia. He didn’t have trucks and a distribution chain to deliver it to Americans.

Montemayor started moving as much as 300 kilograms of cocaine a week to stash houses in Atlanta, Memphis and other American cities, the feds said. He then trucked the cash the cocaine produced back to Mexico, sometimes as much as $1 million in a load.

Prosecutors say Montemayor wasn’t just running trucks. He also started buying his own cocaine from Colombia. And he helped Valdez-Villareal get into the good graces of a high-up cartel official. Montemayor bought a couple of show horses for the official, who liked the animals. He delivered them himself, along with a trainer.

As he made millions, Montemayor’s partner Valdez-Villareal was entangled in a bloody war with rivals in Mexico. Hundreds of people died and were kidnapped, according to the U.S. government. Some assassinations happened after Montemayor sent information to Valdez-Villareal on the targets, prosecutors said.

DEA agents eventually tapped Montemayor’s workers’ phones in Atlanta. Agents identified Montemayor and intercepted calls he was making to control the network from Mexico. Then they got to Valdez-Villareal and arrested both men in 2010.

They were extradited to the U.S. in 2015.

"La Barbie" is considered one of the world's most notorious, violent drug kingpins.

Valdez-Villareal pleaded guilty in 2016 and was sentenced in June 2018 to 49 years in prison.

Montemayor pleaded guilty in November. He is likely the most high-ranking drug trafficker ever sentenced in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, except for Valdez-Villareal.

“And he occupies that infamous position not because he was forced into illegal activities, made some bad decisions, or needed money,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo to the judge. “One only achieves that level of criminal success through a conscious decision to live a life of crime and a dogged pursuit of that goal with relentless dedication, ambition and hard work.”

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