Wednesday 12 December 2018

50 years' jail for 'La Barbie'

Edgar Valdez Villarreal under Mexican federal police escort. Photo: REUTERS
Edgar Valdez Villarreal under Mexican federal police escort. Photo: REUTERS

Kate Brumback in Atlanta

A former Texas high school football player who rose through a bloody power struggle for control of a Mexican drug cartel has been sentenced to nearly 50 years in prison.

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, also known as "La Barbie" for his light eyes and complexion, was also ordered to forfeit $192m (€163m).

Valdez (44) was accused of bringing trucks full of cocaine from Mexico to the eastern US and shipping millions of dollars in cash back across the border.

He was arrested in Mexico in 2010 and was among 13 people extradited in September 2015 to face charges. Valdez pleaded guilty in January 2016 to charges of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine and conspiring to launder money.

Born in Laredo, Texas, on the Mexican border, Valdez's father was a nightclub and bar owner, and they lived in a middle-class area with border patrol agents, police officers and firefighters as neighbours.

He became a street dealer as a teen when he was still a linebacker on the football team at Laredo United High School, and then climbed the ranks to become a high-ranking member of the Beltran Leyva gang.

Valdez owned homes in the most expensive parts of Mexico City. But his luxurious life was threatened after Mexican marines killed the gang's leader during a gun battle in 2009. (© Associated Press)

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