July 19, 2013
As accused drug boss Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal _ who was born in Texas _ sits in a Mexican prison, some of the history behind his climb to power has quietly spilled in an Atlanta courtroom.
Valdez, who was captured three years ago in Mexico, stands out in Mexico’s underworld and if the allegations against him are true, he is one of the few Americans to reach the top echelons of a Mexican drug cartel.
The last the world saw of Valdez was in 2010, when he was captured without a shot being fired outside Mexico City. He was then presented to the public in a somewhat bizarre news conference in which he appeared to be grinning by all of the attention as he was flanked by masked police dressed in black.
AUGUST 31: Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal is shown to the press during a news conference at the federal police center August 31, 2010 in Mexico City, Mexico. Valdez, a Texas-born drug smuggler and leader in the Beltran Leyva cartel, was captured August 30 by Mexican authorities in a residential area near Mexico City. (Photo by Daniel Aguilar/Getty Images)
The thinking back then was that he just might be shipped to the United States to face charges in one of various judicial districts, but he has stayed locked up in Mexico, much of it in a one-man cell.
He has been represented by Houston lawyer Kent Schaffer, who has said his client knows so much that he could hardly be safe down there no matter who is holding him.
La Barbie’s family in Texas also expressed concerns that he was being held on a fortress-like police base in especially harsh conditions.
Valdez has since transferred to a prison, but still doesn’t seem any closer to facing justice in the United States. It remains to be seen what the administration of new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, will do with an extradition request from the United States. The case against him in Atlanta, however continues with the guilty plea this week from one of his key co-conspirators.
A document filed in federal court regarding a guilty plea by Juan Montemayor traces the growth of an organization he allegedly headed.
This undated file photo shows Arturo Beltran Leyva, head of one of Mexico’s top drug cartels, who was killed on December 16, 2009 in Cuernavaca, along with four other members of his gang in a battle with Mexican soldiers, the justice ministry said. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
It moved bulk amounts of cocaine from Mexico to Atlanta, considered a hub for drug distribution in that region of the United States.
It describes how in the early to mid-2000s, Valdez Villarreal moved up from being a local cocaine distributor in Laredo to across the Rio Grande to Nuevo Laredo, where he move large loads into the United States.
It was during that era, the document contends, that Valdez Villarreal connected with higher operations with the now deceased Arturo Beltran Leyva and developed more and more routes for pushing cocaine through distribution networks in the United States.
From there, more and more cocaine flowed north and money back down south. And the legend of La Barbie only grew.