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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Georgia

Monday, June 11, 2018

Mexican cartel leader Edgar Valdez-Villareal, a/k/a “La Barbie,” sentenced to federal prison for drug trafficking and money laundering

ATLANTA - Edgar Valdez-Villareal, a/k/a La Barbie, who was born in the U.S. and rose to be a high-level leader of Mexico’s Beltran-Leyva Cartel, has been sentenced to 49 years and one month in federal prison on charges of cocaine trafficking and money laundering.

“Valdez-Villareal imported tons of cocaine into the U.S. while ruthlessly working his way up the ranks of one of Mexico’s most powerful cartels, leaving in his wake countless lives destroyed by drugs and violence,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “He will now go to federal prison for nearly the rest of his life.  The highest levels of Mexican drug cartel should know that, like La Barbie, they will be held accountable for their crimes.”

“Edgar Valdez-Villareal a/k/a “La Barbie” was once a powerful and high-ranking member of the Mexico-based Sinaloa and Arturo Beltran-Leyva Drug Cartels,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division.  “Valdez-Villareal engaged in two decades of drug trafficking crimes and reigned with immeasurable acts of violence and intimidation. His ruthless and violent drug trafficking activities posed a significant threat to the quality of life in our country and elsewhere. The lengthy sentence he received makes the U.S. a safer place. DEA wants to thank its local, state, federal, regional, national and foreign (especially the government of Mexico) law enforcement partners, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia for making this extraordinary case a success.” 

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: As early as the year 2000, Valdez-Villareal began his drug trafficking career as a marijuana distributor in Laredo, Texas.  He soon developed cocaine customers in New Orleans and Memphis, and his activities escalated into regular shipments of 150-180 kilograms of cocaine to distributors in multiple cities.  Valdez-Villareal eventually entered into a relationship with Arturo Beltran-Leyva, who was then associated with the Sinaloa Cartel and Joaquin Guzman-Loera, a/k/a “El Chapo,” in Mexico.  With their support, Valdez-Villareal 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 U.S. to Valdez-Villareal’s distributors.  At the same time, Valdez-Villareal became a top-level enforcer for the cartel and coordinated a war against his rivals, the Gulf Cartel and Zetas in Mexico.

In 2004, Valdez-Villareal and his partners sought out a more formalized distribution organization for their cocaine customers in Memphis and Atlanta.  Valdez-Villareal obtained cocaine from Colombia, exported the cocaine from Mexico to customers located in the U.S. 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-Villareal using wiretaps, seizures of over 100 kilograms of cocaine and $4 million of drug proceeds, and witness testimony.

Edgar Valdez-Villareal, a/k/a La Barbie, 44, of Laredo, Texas has been sentenced to 49 years and one month in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release, and ordered to forfeit the sum of $192,000,000, by U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr.  Valdez-Villareal was convicted of conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and conspiracy to launder money on January 6, 2016, after he entered a guilty plea.

This case was investigated by agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Former U.S. Attorney John Horn, Assistant U.S Attorney Elizabeth M. Hathaway, Chief of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Garrett L. Bradford prosecuted the case.  The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance with this case.

This prosecution was brought as a part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s drug supply reduction strategy. OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.  Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.

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

Drug Trafficking
Updated June 11, 2018