Tough prison term for Mexican drug cartel leader

Texas-born cartel leader Edgar Valdez Villarreal, aka'La Barbie' was sentenced to 50 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $192million by a judge in Atlanta Georgia

After connecting with Arturo Beltran Leyva and later Joaquin Guzman-Loera, aka El Chapo, Valdez-Villareal began using speedboats to transport cocaine out of Colombia and other South American countries into Mexico and then on to the United States, the U.S. attorney said.

Authorities said that he moved to Mexico in the late 1990s, after he was indicted on marijuana charges, then joined the Beltran-Leyva cartel, when it was aligned with El Chapo's Sinaloa cartel, rising quickly through the Beltra-Leyva ranks to become a high-ranking cartel leader.

Villarreal was said to have maintained a flashy lifestyle, wearing expensive suits, going to nightclubs and owning property in the ritziest parts of Mexico City.

In January 2016, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to import and distribute cocaine and conspiring to launder money.

Valdez was arrested in Mexico back in 2010 and was extradited to the U.S.in September of 2015. His parents, other siblings and nieces and nephews, packed the courtroom. She acknowledged that her brother had strayed but insisted he was still a good person.

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Federal Police escort Texas-born fugitive Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias "La Barbie", center, during his presentation to the press in Mexico City, Tuesday Aug. 31, 2010. A judge sentenced him to 49 years and one month in federal prison. At the time of his arrest, Mexico's then-President Felipe Calderon described Valdez as "one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and overseas".

Defense attorney Buddy Parker stressed that his client cooperated with USA law enforcement agents even before his 2010 arrest, putting his own life in jeopardy.

After Mexican marines killed Arturo Beltran Leyva in December 2009, Valdez and Beltran Leyva's brother, Hector, began a bloody fight for control that left dismembered and decapitated bodies in the streets and often hanging from bridges in Cuernavaca and Acapulco. Initially, prosecutors asked for 660 months in prison or 55 years, but the judge handed down 589 months instead.

Duffey remained skeptical, saying that by providing information to United States authorities, Valdez was effectively "structuring a situation where his competitors were being taken out by law enforcement".

"You have betrayed nearly everything that is important in our country", said U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey at Valdez's sentencing.

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