US drug lord ‘La Barbie’ sentenced to 49 years
A former US high school athlete who became a Mexican crime lord has been sentenced to 49 years in prison on drug and money-laundering charges.
A federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia, ruled Edgar Valdez Villarreal, called “La Barbie” for his light eyes and fair skin, must also forfeit $ 192m (£143m).
He was brought up in a middle-class family in Texas, where he was born, but turned to gang crime as a teenager.
Arrested in Mexico in 2010, he was extradited to the US in 2015.
He pleaded guilty to the charges in 2016.
Valdez, 44, was a member of the Beltran Levya drug cartel.
He distributed thousands of kilos of cocaine in the eastern US between 2004-06 and shipped millions of dollars in cash back to Mexico.
Before he joined the Mexican drug cartel, Valdez was a high school American football linebacker in Laredo, Texas.
After years dealing drugs in the US, Valdez is reported to have moved to Mexico.
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He is said to have served as a bodyguard to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who was the head of the Sinaloa cartel and Mexico’s most-wanted drug lord.
After falling out with El Chapo, he allegedly switched allegiance to the Beltran Leyva brothers.
Valdez, also known as El Comandante and El Guero, then allegedly became the head of the gang’s hitmen.
When the cartel’s leader, Arturo Beltran Levya, was killed, Valdez was said to have been involved in a bloody struggle for control of the organisation.
In 2010, he was arrested by Mexican authorities. He and 12 others were extradited in September 2015.
In January 2016, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to import and distribute cocaine and conspiring to launder money.