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An Atlanta judge has sentenced Mexican drug cartel kingpin Edgar Valdez Villarreal to almost 50 years in federal prison, according to the Associated Press. Villarreal, known as “La Barbie” for his light eyes and fair skin, was formerly a Laredo, Texas high school football player before climbing the ranks of Mexico’s drug ring.
The Laredo native comes from a middle-class community, where his father owned a nightclub and bar. According to local Texas station KSAT 12, Villarreal became a dealer in his teenage years, while playing as a linebacker on the Laredo United High School football team. Eventually, Barbie joined the top ranks of the Beltran Leyva gang, back when the gang was still associated with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel. His luxurious lifestyle as a member of the cartel came to a halt when Mexican Marines killed Arturo Beltran Leyva, one of the four brothers leading the gang, back in December 2009.
Villarreal and one of Arturo's three brothers, Hector, then engaged in a bloody battle fought for control of the gang. This culminated in decapitated and dismembered bodies hanging in the streets and bridges of Cuernavaca and Acapulco. At this time, Barbie was considered “one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and abroad” by then-Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
This real-life, modern Narcos storyline did not end well for Villarreal. An elite U.S.-trained Mexican federal police squad caught him in August 2010. The now 44-year-old was arrested and charged for facilitating the transport of trucks full of cocaine from Mexico to the east coast of the U.S., as well as sending millions of dollars back to Mexico.
Villarreal was among 13 other people extradited to the U.S. from Mexico in September 2015. In January 2016, he pled guilty to importing and distributing cocaine, as well as conspiring to launder money. He's now been sentenced to 49 years and one month in prison on drug and money laundering charges, and was ordered to forfeit $192 million.