In this 2010 photo, police escort Texas-born fugitive Edgar Valdez Villarreal, center, in Mexico City. Valdez, known as “La Barbie” because of his light eyes and complexion, pleaded guilty in Atlanta in 2016 to charges of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine and conspiring to launder money. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini) 
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Notorious drug kingpin known as ‘La Barbie’ to be sentenced in Atlanta

One of the world’s most notorious and violent drug kingpins is scheduled to be sentenced Monday by a federal judge in Atlanta.

The American-born Edgar Valdez Villareal was famously called “La Barbie,” a nickname he got at his Texas high school because of his blond hair and green eyes. As a kingpin, Valdez was well known for his flashy lifestyle – on one of his ranches, he had a small zoo with a lion – and the brutality of his operations.

In a sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors called Valdez “a drug trafficker of the highest magnitude.” Calling it a “conservative estimate,” prosecutors said Valdez was responsible for distributing at least 12,000 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S., with large quantities moving through Atlanta.

He pleaded guilty in 2016 to three criminal conspiracy counts for distributing and importing cocaine and then laundering the proceeds.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it will ask U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey to sentence the 44-year-old Valdez to 55 years in federal prison and to order him to forfeit $192 million – the estimated proceeds of his drug operation.

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, also known as “La Barbie,” will be sentenced Monday in Atlanta.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Prosecutors said they will give Valdez credit for the 8 years of time he’s already served since his arrest in Mexico in 2010 when he was one of the world’s most wanted men. Valdez’s criminal activity warrants a life sentence, the Justice Department said. But it said it is not asking for one because his guilty plea saved a tremendous amount of court time and government resources.

The memorandum also referred to a separate, “sealed” court filing as to why a sentence of less than life in prison is warranted, an indication Valdez is cooperating with federal authorities.

So there is a chance, the memorandum said, that Valdez “will walk out of incarceration one day when he is no longer able to harm others.”

The prosecution’s filing, detailing Valdez’s brazenly brutal ways, his orchestration of massive corruption within the Mexican government and the lengths he took to carry out his drug operation, is chilling. It says Valdez began from humble roots in Laredo, Texas, and worked his way up to be a top-level enforcer and trafficker for two large drug cartels.

“As the amount of cocaine trafficked by Valdez is staggering, the brutality of his operations is disquieting,” prosecutors said.

To cultivate his ruthless reputation, Valdez ordered a video be taken of the execution of a man from a rival drug gang who’d been dispatched to assassinate Valdez but was captured by his security team. Valdez arranged for copies of the video, showing the man being killed by a gunshot to the head, to be sent to media outlets, even to U.S. law enforcement.


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The area is a heavily populated shopping and dining area.

Valdez had a security detail of 20 to 30 men, many with prior law enforcement experience. His drug operation received shipments of guns, including AK-47s, AR-15s, M-16s with grenade launchers, night vision equipment, 50-caliber rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. He had his own gunsmith who converted semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic, prosecutors said.

The smuggling of tons of cocaine into the U.S. caused the destruction of untold numbers of families and destabilized countries throughout the region, the prosecution’s filing said.

“Its social costs have been enormous,” the memo said. “And for years Valdez was responsible for a significant portion of that poison.”

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