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Press Release

Mexican Cartel Leader Edgar Valdez-Villareal, A/K/A "La Barbie," Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia

ATLANTA - Edgar Valdez-Villareal, a/k/a La Barbie, who was born in the United States and rose to be a high-level leader of Mexico's Beltran-Leyva Cartel, has pleaded guilty to charges of cocaine importation and distribution, and money laundering.

“Valdez’s conviction is a victory for the people in both the United States and Mexico whose lives were affected by his cocaine trafficking, through drug addiction and community decay or through the violence and corruption associated with the cartel’s daily business,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn.  “Valdez stands as a prime example of the Mexican cartels’ influence over the U.S. drug trade, as truckload after truckload of his cocaine traveled across the border to Atlanta for further transport to cities throughout the eastern United States.  We are grateful for the cooperation of the Mexican government in securing Valdez’s arrest and extradition to Atlanta to face these charges.”

“Since 2004, Edgar Valdez-Villarreal (La Barbie) was responsible for the distribution of 1000’s of kilograms of Cocaine throughout the Southeast, and more specifically the Northern District of Georgia.  This is a great day for DEA, the Government of Mexico and literally hundreds of DEA’s federal, state and local partners throughout the United States. I want to thank the US Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia, and his staff for their outstanding efforts throughout this investigation.  This is a victory for this great Nation and our partners in the Republic of Mexico.” Said Atlanta’s DEA Special Agent in Charge Daniel R. Salter.   

According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: As early as the year 2000, Valdez began his drug trafficking career as a marijuana distributor in Laredo, Texas.  He soon developed cocaine customers in New Orleans, Louisiana, Memphis, Tennessee, and Mississippi, and his activities escalated into regular shipments of 150-180 kilograms of cocaine to his customers.  Valdez eventually entered into a relationship with Arturo Beltran-Leyva, who was then associated with the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, and began coordinating shipments of cocaine into Mexico from Colombia and other South American countries using speedboats and airplanes, while also paying bribes to local law enforcement officials.  The cocaine was then transported across the border into the United States.

In 2004, Valdez and his partners sought out a more formalized distribution organization for their cocaine customers in Memphis and Atlanta.  Valdez obtained cocaine from Colombia, exported the cocaine from Mexico to customers located in the United States in tractor trailer loads of up to 300 kilograms twice per week, then arranged for currency to be smuggled back across the border to the organization’s supervisors in Mexico.  In Atlanta alone, the organization distributed a total of 1,500 kilograms of cocaine in just six months in 2005.  DEA agents were able to build the case against Valdez using wiretaps, seizures of over 100 kilograms of cocaine and $4 million of drug proceeds, and witness testimony.

Each of the drug trafficking charges in this case carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, a fine of up to $10,000,000, a lifetime term of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment, and requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and five years of supervised release.

The money laundering charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the amount of funds that were laundered, a three-year term of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.  In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Sentencing for Edgar Valdez-Villareal, a/k/a La Barbie, 42, has not yet been scheduled.

This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

United States Attorney John Horn and Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth M. Hathaway and Garrett L. Bradford are prosecuting the case.  The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance with this case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following web site:

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is

Updated January 6, 2016

Drug Trafficking