Thursday, October 22, 2015

An American Drug Lord Comes Home

Borderland Beat posted by DD, republished from The New Yorker

 By

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a.k.a. La Barbie, a Texas-born drug smuggler, was extradited from Mexico last month. Credit Photograph by Daniel Aguilar/Getty 

In 2006, a Texan named Edgar Valdez Villarreal was at an inflection point in his drug-smuggling career. Valdez was thirty-three and known as La Barbie for his blond hair and blue eyes, the fair-skinned look that Mexicans call güero. A former high-school linebacker from Laredo, he had spent about fifteen years shipping marijuana, and later, cocaine, to Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. During the late nineteen-nineties, he was one of many smugglers operating across the border, in Nuevo Laredo, the largest inland port in Mexico. The drug trade had been relatively peaceful. Each smuggler paid sixty thousand dollars a month to the local plaza boss, a man named Dionisio García, known as El Chacho, who in turn paid the bribes that insured the trafficking routes.


But in 2000, the Gulf cartel began to take over Nuevo Laredo, and gave every crook in town an option: join or die. El Chacho was killed, and La Barbie fled to Acapulco. He joined a clan from western Mexico, the Beltrán-Leyva brothers, who were associates of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo. La Barbie prospered with the Beltrán Leyva cartel, a group of four brothers led by Arturo Beltrán Leyva, known to authorities as A.B.L. Government sources say the group imported about forty tons of coke per month through the southern port at Zihuatanejo. La Barbie, together with the Beltrán Leyvas and the Sinaloans, warred against the Gulf cartel for control of Nuevo Laredo. La Barbie orchestrated a bold public-relations campaign on behalf of his crew: he placed newspaper ads and editorials denouncing their rivals, and was supposedly responsible for making a viral video documenting the execution of four assassins who’d been sent to Acapulco to kill him. Soon, he acquired a global reputation as a top player. But by 2006, as the new Mexican President, Felipe Calderón, promised an assault on drug cartels, it became clear that La Barbie’s side had lost.



La Barbie scrambled. He separated from his first wife and married Priscilla, the teen-age daughter of a drug-smuggling associate. He was losing friends and money. Through his attorney, he contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration in Laredo, which wanted an informant to help capture A.B.L. and El Chapo Guzmán. La Barbie offered to help the D.E.A. get A.B.L. or Guzmán, but not both, and he had several requests; among them, he wanted to bring six million dollars into the United States and get a case against his cousin dropped. The agents he spoke to were eager to strike a deal, but their boss quashed the negotiation. “It got to the point,” a retired D.E.A. agent who was involved in the talks told me, “where management said, ‘He’s a fucking doper; if he doesn’t want to coöperate, screw him.’ ”


Undaunted, La Barbie shopped his intelligence at other federal agencies—the C.I.A., Immigration and Customs Enforcement—and found a receptive ear at the F.B.I., which, coördinating with Mexican law enforcement, used his information to reach A.B.L., who died during a capture attempt in 2009. “At that point, he would’ve loved to come to the States and get a big sentence reduction,” a government official who worked on the case said, of La Barbie. “But there was never an explicit agreement where we told him, ‘Yes, we can help you.’ It was complicated. Too many jurisdictions had charges on him. There’d also been some executions of police officers in Mexico.” La Barbie was controversial, his lawyer at the time, Michael McCrum, told me. “The agents wanted to work with us, but we hit roadblocks from the upper levels of D.O.J. There’d been too much publicity.” He added, “That video didn’t help,” referring to the filmed execution.


When the remaining Beltrán Leyva brothers realized La Barbie had set up A.B.L. with the F.B.I., they marked him for death. He went into hiding, moving around Acapulco, Cuernavaca, and Mexico City. In 2010, he was captured by Mexican federal police. Last month, after five years in prison, La Barbie was extradited to the U.S. in a group that included his father-in-law and eleven other fugitives.


When someone is indicted in a U.S. court and flees to a country with which the U.S. has an extradition treaty, the prosecuting attorney can request extradition. A provisional arrest warrant, known as a PAW, gets the ball rolling: it’s a simple form with the defendant’s name, the issuing court, the agent or investigator, and a factual basis for the charges. The prosecutor sends the PAW to the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Justice, which reviews it, and sends it on to the State Department, which sends it to officials in the country in question—in this case, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who passes it on to the Attorney General’s Office. They pass it to the appropriate Mexican court. If that court finds probable cause, and the fugitive is arrested or is already in custody, the Americans have sixty days to compile an extradition package, which can include affidavits, fingerprints, witness lists, and coöperating defendants.


Extradition from Mexico is tricky. U.S. prosecutors and defense attorneys said they believe that if a fugitive has a corruption deal with the Mexican government, or simply knows too much about corruption, Mexico may prolong extradition until a new administration is elected, or just prosecute the defendant itself. Another potential tactic: if Mexico lacks charges of its own, the Mexican prosecutor might use the charges from the Americans’ PAW, then later refuse extradition on the basis of “double jeopardy,” the legal principle that prohibits a defendant from being prosecuted twice for the same offense.


Some fugitives actively seek extradition to the U.S., either for safety reasons or because they believe they have valuable information to trade. Hanging over every Mexican extradition is the precedent set by Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the former Gulf cartel leader. Extradited in 2007 and sentenced in 2010, Cárdenas, who was eligible for a life sentence, is scheduled for release in 2025. His plea agreement remains sealed. But law enforcement sources say that Cárdenas, through his own informant, passed along information about drug loads and the whereabouts of underbosses—the kind of meaningful, real-time intelligence that only a top capo could possess. 

“Cartel cases often rely on coöperators,” Angel Moreno, a federal prosecutor in Texas, says, of the general nature of these prosecutions. “To many people that coöperator may be the devil, but if he’s going to help us get five other archangels, we’ll probably still use him as a witness.” The worst guys are positioned to make the best deals.


After La Barbie’s arrest, in 2010, Mexican authorities summoned his new lawyer, Kent Schaffer, to discuss an agreement through which La Barbie would be extradited in return for information about several Mexican officials. La Barbie was eager to come home, and confident about his negotiating position. “Shortly before the exchange was supposed to take place, the strangest thing happened,” Schaffer told me. “The government lawyer we were negotiating with, Marisela Morales, suddenly cut off the talks, and said, ‘No deal.’ They went from being gung-ho about extradition to refusing our phone calls.” Schaffer guesses that the Mexican government initially wanted information on officials from the opposing political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), but then worried about collateral damage to their own party, the National Action Party (PAN). Months later, Morales was appointed the first female attorney general in Mexico’s history. (She couldn’t be reached for comment.) La Barbie was left in his Mexican prison cell.


Years passed, and La Barbie grew pessimistic about his ability to make a favorable deal with U.S. prosecutors. His information about drug routes was becoming stale, and the associates he might have snitched on were dead or in prison. As a legal strategy, he began fighting extradition: under the U.S.-Mexico extradition treaty, the “rule of specialty” says that if you’re extradited over your objection, you cannot be tried for cases that aren’t provided for in the extradition request. Many agents and lawyers started to argue that La Barbie was never a very powerful drug lord in the first place. Even within the Beltrán Leyva family, many underbosses ranked above him, including Sergio Villarreal Barragán, known as El Grande, a former member of the Mexican federal police. In 2012, El Grande was extradited to the U.S., where his information led to the capture of Mexican military officials. He remains an informant, still un-sentenced. “El Grande is going to get a sweet deal,” the retired D.E.A. agent told me.


La Barbie’s situation remained unchanged. Rumors of mistreatment and hunger strikes surfaced. In 2012, when the PRI took over the Mexican government, La Barbie still wasn’t moved from his cell. From the American perspective, there is little logic to the timing of an extradition; it’s in Mexico’s hands, and all a U.S. prosecutor can do is speculate. Schaffer expected the extradition would come eventually, but the wait was becoming awfully long. Then, one day in late September, La Barbie found himself on a plane with a dozen fellow-fugitives, flying back to his birth country. “I think the Mexican government finally released him now only because Chapo Guzmán escaped,” Schaffer said. “If one of these other guys escaped, it would be too damaging to the relationship with the U.S.”


La Barbie is being prosecuted in Atlanta, on charges related to drug trafficking and money laundering. He’ll probably seek retroactive credit for his help with A.B.L. The court may have to determine whether he gave up A.B.L to curry favor with law enforcement or to move out a competitor. Without an explicit agreement that conferred a benefit on La Barbie in exchange for coöperation, he’s unlikely to see a significant sentence reduction for help he provided six years ago.


Should La Barbie consider going to trial, he’ll have to contend with the witnesses lined up to testify against him, including co-conspirators who’ve already pleaded guilty, and one of his top customers, Craig Petties, a.k.a. Lil Dude, the half brother of DJ Paul from the rap group Three 6 Mafia. Lil Dude is serving nine life sentences for a raft of murder and drug charges related to his affiliation with La Barbie and the Beltrán Leyvas.


Among the other twelve fugitives extradited in September is Jorge Costilla Sánchez, known as El Coss, a former Gulf Cartel leader who was arrested in 2012. Charged in Texas for drug trafficking, money laundering, and threatening federal agents, El Coss’s future will probably depend on how many associates he can help the U.S. government capture and prosecute.

El Coss and La Barbie are both in their mid-forties. El Coss is by all accounts the more accomplished drug lord, but he’s being prosecuted in the Southwest, which sees more cartel cases than anywhere in America. In Georgia, by contrast, La Barbie will be a blockbuster. La Barbie has new representation, two Atlanta-based lawyers. When he appeared in court earlier this month, they met for the first time. Kent Schaffer suspected that the U.S. attorney they are facing will have concerns about granting La Barbie leniency. “His attitude is, ‘Why should I cut a deal? I’ve already got the biggest guy I’m going to get."
DD; Maybe its Karma, but La Barbie seems to be particularly unlucky.

45 comments:

  1. La Barbie will prevail, the guy is getting a movie made about his life, he is the next Henry Hill.

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  2. U can't have Chapo but you can take your trash Amercia hes all yours hahahahha

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  3. Drug lord? Why? Because he was wearing a polo shirt??

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    1. Good one, 10:48 :-) LMAO

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  4. BIG Like 2 this article. Many thanks, DD & BB. Barbie does have some deep, negative karma, for sure. If, I am going to give a dam about anything Barbie related, it's his victims not his fate. He got danced by Mexico & three-letter gov agencies, despite or because of his A.B.L. connection. Today, his intel is stale --brings to mind the line from a Tango, "..tu amor es como el periodico de ayer.." He should be in prison, permanently, IMO. Yea, they might make an example of him , but the big, evil goof has earned it. CNN ATLANTA will have itself a pixelated frenzy over la Barbie:-)

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  5. El Barbie is soon to experience real-life results with people whom he served to infect. Disfrute, Cabron.

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  6. Its funny how the USA makes deals whit this criminals , osiel cardenas snitch on all the organization thats why the golf cartel went to shit , el coss is probaly going to snitch to those cowards from tamaulicaca aint so brave after all bunch of pussys

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  7. What can you expected from tamaulipuercos they are a pack of snitches thats why their leaders dont last long because they be snitching on each other since osiel cardenas became leader thats why they call him el mata amigos

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  8. La Barbie didn't fled to Acapulco he was send by his boss to create a safe passage for drugs. La Barbie was hiding from Los Zetas and fought against the with the help of BLO and lost the battle. But he was contacted by Arturo Beltran when he was still in Nuevo Laredo. This article is half B.S but you guys can always believe what you want.

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    1. Who are you?, You do realize that the NSA is keeping track of everything you write, shit look outside your window, see any ice-cream trucks?, all that info you posses could locate Chapo... make sure you cut a deal...

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    2. so why dont you tell us what really happened then?

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    3. 3:45 don't ask, that is la novia de los narcos, always defending them or sompim

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    4. It's true, the execution video was a result of the war with Los Zetas in Nuevo Leredo. Acapulco came later. This is well documented.

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  9. A popular misconception but the truth is Barbie met Don Arturo at a meeting between plaza bosses of North east Mexico. Barbies uncle was in attendance. Arturo who controlled Monterey let the lm know he was the boss of that area and was using NL as his crossing route. He took Edgar under his wing from then on.
    Chacho was a Michoacano with ties to CDS, CDG killed him when they began to vacuum that zone. Barbie never worked or took orders from Chapo, Always loyal to his "apa" until the last day they say he handed him over to the FBI (they say his brother works there) and Garcia Luna.

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    1. Hell No, Barbies brother is a BandidoOctober 23, 2015 at 12:27 AM

      Barbies brother works there at FBI?. Hell no dude, he's a business man with a trucking company and got arrested few years ago for paying one of his clients 2,000$ in a hot check (no funds) here in Laredo, Tx.

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    2. Maybe works for the FBI and all comers as an informant, like so many other bikers, but the hell's angels are the champs, they have more informers and agents than real members, they are the 1% of the 1%ers, government franchised and looove their bloody wings, they earned them...

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    3. Hate the Hells. The Quebec bunch are mad as hatters, besides pretty close to untouchable. True, there are arrests, even trials, but not that many convictions. From time to time, a Hells Angel will do a prison escape, get up to no good for a couple days, then back to prison. Sometimes, they kill each other, nobody much cares when it happens. The Hells are a part of Quebec's economy that's not really talked about out loud--real estate, construction--They've been at the drug imports biz since 1960's Montreal, bikers were the go-to-guys for hashish. Greed & stupidity & cocaine & bloodshed are 1970's biker factors that took them outta their quasi cool bad guys' status, by the 1980's bikers were considered full blown arseholes, feared and hated by Quebecois.The Hells organization gets taken down middle '80's in Montreal during a multi national investigation into NY Italian Mafia in Quebec. This, possibly, put a dent in their style. The Rock Machine came out of it, more of a stand in, until the Hells got themselves sorted out. Today, they're a Canada wide, powerful crime syndicate, with expensive lawyers, judges, politicians on "retainer." And, total assholes.

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  10. So La Barbie turned in Arturo Beltran? Pinche soplon, I guess in the end snitch or die.

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  11. Is anyone reading The Cartel by Don winslow? I bought the book about a month ago. In the book it says Edgar gave Arturo a pair of boots as a present at that christmas party and the books had a tracking device in them, then Arturo gave Edgar an Audimar watch and he felt bad. Does anyone else know if there is any truth to that? There being a tracking device placed on Arturo by La barbie?

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    1. Heard this from a soldiers interview but they never named the person who gave him the shoes.

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    2. And that pair of boots would be the only pair of boots ABL owned, so he would be sure to wear them all the time.
      Barbie was part of Arturo's upper echelon and knew pretty much where Arturo was all the time.

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  12. so this pretty much confirms that barbie ratted out barbas location

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  13. I see Don Winslow has been mentioned. I read his book the The Cartel and as someone who has been a regular reader of Borderland beat, i gotta say he pretty much was spot on in his chronicle of the cartel wars from the mid 2000s. Also his other book the Power of the Dog chronicles the rise of the Federacion and then the subsequent rise of the Arellano Felix Cartel. Don Winslow has said in interviews that he took years in his research by reading government files, court files, and press coverage of the drug wars for his books. Borderland Beat should a review of Don Winslow's The Cartel or should get in contact Don Winslow for an interview. i can't say enough the man knows his stuff when it comes to the drug war.

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    1. Did Don Winslow ever find the names of the businessmen and politicians and poolice and military from the US And Mexico? La barbe and anabel hernandez, even bertie boy moreira accuse some of them( and the DEA, and the CIA, and US banks...)too bad "the words of criminals can not be believed"

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  14. El Barbie didnt betray Arturo thats a foolish thought. When are some people going to realise it if barbie almost got caught with him at that party the day before he died. Hes not.gonna help him escape and turn him in a few days later. Barbie simply went solo cuz he didnt get along with el grande and H. The truth is Chapo, mayo, and all their allies like el.roga alba were after Arturo Beltran and that is the big picture they dont see. El H just considered barbie a rival and he was blamed for snitching altough he never did. When el chapo was.caught why did they kill el bravo if it wasnt his fault. Same.case, they needed someone to blame and kill just in case he did snitch eventhough they knew he never snitch.

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    1. @4:03

      Hey there Barbie lover, he did snitch. All them bums from Laredo, Tx are snitches and backstabbers

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    2. El bravo was killed because he was in charge of security Forbes chapo in mazatlan he failed to do so and he paid the price

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    3. Didn't Chapo sons kill El Bravo?

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    4. As the wise and famous Chapo Snitched guy said many times....Chapo snitched!!!

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    5. if i was bravo i wouldnt left as soon as chapo got caught. he could of probably got a job for blo

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    6. Even if he didn't snitch he turned on the rest of blo when Arturo died and he failed to take over blo just like he failed against the zetas.why is this guy a druglord.oziel Cardenas was charged by the US government with crossing 12 tons of coke across. That's not counting all of it most likely nor the coke other cdg ppl crossed or all the other drugs. How much shit did this guy crossed.

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  15. La barbie ex Cia agent, ex mata zetaz

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    1. Why do people say that he is an ex cia agent? How do you know that?You are not the first person to say it either

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    2. I don't know about cia agent, but he could very well have been working for some cia agents. When things started to fall, he still managed to stay alive until he was arrested. I think he was always guided by the cia. The executions on film started a scary trend. I think the cia did that to intimidate the opposition. Everyone became scared after that. No one ever admits their opinions with others anymore. It created a lot of fear in and out of Mexico. I think it was the cia's idea, solely to protect their investments (drug trafficking and gun dealing). Barbie was given up when he was no longer operating

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    3. An "ex" CIA agent? No such beast. CIA employs 1000's to run its show in Langley, these are employees, who one day, retire.. "Agents," "assets," that's for life--on payroll, or off, it makes no difference. Like the song says, "Check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."

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    4. He had been working with the DEA for 2 years

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    5. DEA, a boarding school for sissies compared to CIA.

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  16. Home Sweet Home!!

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  17. CHAPO snitched on arturo MENSOS!! not barbie lol

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    1. CHAPO snitched on alfredo IDIOT!! not arturo lol

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    2. 9:33 alfredo said chapo was not the one to blame, why don't somebody ask him again?
      --The US do not allow some people to talk to anybody, not until the fresh bodies are not so fresh anymore, that way they are busy with obsolete news that do nothing to stop drug trafficking crimes many others

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  18. I hope Barbie is free to cut off more heads. He was doing us all a favor. Cutting down the bad guys in numbers. I miss his videos.

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  19. La Barbie had Acupulco under control. When he was arrested all hell broke loose, underlings fighting to be the new boss, Acapuco is now a murder capital of the world. Great going Mexican government: they like to catch one boss and let 100,000 people die. Kingpin nonsense

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  20. Witness protection program

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  21. A recent American was executed last summer/fall by Los zetas of someone who turned on them. Anyone know details?

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