“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

Edgar Valdez-Villarreal, better known as “La Barbie” the Mexican-American drug lord, was extradited to the US on September 30, 2015. He was being housed at a maximum security federal prison following a 2018 49-year sentence and a $192 million forfeiture on a drug trafficking and money laundering case out of Atlanta. He was serving his term in federal prison in Florida at maximum security USP Coleman 2. The United USP Coleman 1 and USP Coleman 2 prisons have housed several other well-known figures, including serial killers, mobsters including “Whitey” Bulger, Mafia cop Steve Caracappa, other cartel leaders including Benjamin Arellano Felix, and terrorists. He was initially set to be released on July 3, 2058. 

USP Coleman is known as a “safe” special needs institution for inmates that might be at risk of violence if placed onto regular yards including informants, gang dropouts, former cops, and other vulnerable or well-known inmates.
Currently, however, his status on the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator states that inmate #05658-748 (Listed as Edgard Valdez-Villareal) is ‘NOT IN BOP CUSTODY’ but shows a release date of 07/27/2056. Normally, an inmate that has been released shows a ‘Released On’ date. If they are currently serving their sentence in federal prison, their location and set release date are displayed. 

His BOP status shows Not in BOP Custody, followed by an updated release date. 

Why is La Barbie No Longer in BOP Custody?

Based on previous high-level cartel figures in US custody; there are a few possible reasons why La Barbie would no longer be in BOP custody even with his long sentence:

Damaso Lopez Nunez, better known as “El Licenciado” was sentenced by a US judge to serve a life sentence in prison in 2018. In February 2021 however, El Licenciado’s listed expected release date changed to August 11, 2032. It was widely speculated that this sentence reduction was due to key information that an “anonymous” “cooperating witness number 1” provided to US prosecutors that helped prove Emma Coronel was actively involved in aiding the business of her husband, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo”. In October 2021, as reported by Borderland Beat, Damaso was no longer listed in the BOP registry and it is possible he has been released into the custody of US Marshals in order to enter into WITSEC.

Similarly, Eduardo Arellano Félix’s expected release date on his BOP registry changed from “August 18, 2021” to “UNKOWN”. While his sentence was greatly reduced, he did not enter the witness protection program when he was released. He was subsequently deported back to Mexico, at which point he was re-arrested.

“El Vincentillo” Zambada Niebla, the eldest son of “El Mayo” Zambada was a witness against “El Chapo” and other cartel figures after having been imprisoned in the US. El Vincentillo, in 2021 was no longer listed as in BOP custody. “With the information that we have available at this time, we can tell you that Vicente Zambada-Niebla is not in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP),” a spokesperson for that agency wrote in response to questions from The Associated Press (AP). The US Marshal did not confirm or deny his being under their protection. “[We] do not confirm or deny any information about anyone who may or may not participate in the Witness Protection Program. We also did not provide details on the movement or location of prisoners,” said US Marshals spokesman James P. Stossel in a written statement. 
He was arrested in Mexico in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison in the US in 2019; citing his “extraordinary and unprecedented” cooperation. Zambada-Niebla’s name no longer appears in the BOP’s online inmate lookup portal. His release date is also not found in any electronic database of the US government. His uncle Jesús “El Rey” Zambada is also not in BOP custody. He testified in Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s 2019 trial along with Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez and Jorge Milton Cifuentes. 
“Mayito Gordo” Zambada was sentenced to essentially time served and released under supervision from a San Diego prison in 2022. Speculation and rumors of his deportation back to Mexico occurred including Amparos being filed there to prevent his detention should he arrive back in his home country. The latest rumors suggest that he struck a deal to be able to remain under supervision in the US instead of being deported.
However, Edgar Valdez-Villareal is an American citizen having been born in the border town of Laredo, Texas, and becoming a high school football star before working with the Beltran Leyva cartel in 2002. Therefore, he would not be deported should he be released due to a reduced sentence. The other conclusion is that “La Barbie,” having pleaded guilty to his charges already, has made a deal to cooperate with federal prosecutors and is currently in the custody of the US Marshals and/or at a prison for detained witnesses.
Edgar Valdez-Villareal was better known as “La Barbie” for his American heritage and blonde hair.

“La Barbie” Cooperated with US Authorities Prior to His Arrest

Valdez enjoyed a flashy lifestyle and cultivated an image in the media to impress the public and intimidate his rivals, prosecutor Elizabeth Hathaway said in court. He wore nice suits and owned luxury homes, including a ranch with a zoo that housed a lion. But he was always extremely violent during his time in Mexico. His security team captured a member of the rival Los Zetas who had been sent to assassinate Valdez during their turf war. A video shows Valdez and others interrogating the man and then shows him being shot in the head, prosecutors said. Valdez had the video sent to news outlets and even to law enforcement in the US. 

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. 

Defense attorney Buddy Parker stressed that his client cooperated with US law enforcement agents even before his 2010 arrest, putting his own life in jeopardy. Valdez considered surrendering to law enforcement but feared it would seriously endanger his family. Parker asked the judge to stick to the low end of the sentencing guidelines and give his client 30 years.

Duffey was skeptical, noting that even as he communicated with law enforcement, Valdez was arranging for regular shipments of cocaine into the United States. Hathaway seized on that skepticism when asking the judge to impose a 55-year sentence. By providing information to US authorities, she said, Valdez was “structuring a situation where his competitors were being taken out by law enforcement.” She acknowledged that Valdez has cooperated and saved the government money and effort by quickly pleading guilty, but she argued that a harsh sentence was needed to send a message to other traffickers.

Valdez told the judge he accepted responsibility for his wrongdoing and apologized to his family. He said he’d like for his life to serving as an example to young people about the dangers of getting mixed up in drugs. “I’m not a bad person,” Valdez told the judge. “I am a good person who has made bad decisions.” Duffey wasn’t swayed, telling Valdez that his actions were despicable and amounted to a betrayal of his family and his country. He said he didn’t get a real sense of remorse from Valdez for flooding American communities with drugs. At his sentencing hearing, one of his six sisters and his brother pleaded with the judge for leniency. His parents, other siblings, and nieces and nephews packed the courtroom.

Carla Valdez, who works as a prosecutor in Texas, told US District Judge William Duffey that she and her siblings were raised by humble, hardworking parents who taught them strong values and morals. She acknowledged that her brother strayed from that upbringing but insisted he was a good person. Duffey said he struggled to understand how Valdez got so off track despite his strong family background. “You haven’t earned the right to live in an American community,” Duffey said.
In 2020, a report stated that between 2008 and 2010, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias “La Barbie,” reportedly provided sensitive information to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), according to an investigation based on court documents obtained by Anabel Hernández and published in Aristegui Noticias.
The document dates from 2018 when it was the hearing in which the arguments of the Prosecutor’s Office and the defense were presented to determine the number of years of sentence to which Valdez Villarreal could be sentenced. The most substantial and sensitive part of the document was classified for two years, keeping it in reserve, until the first months of 2020. 
In cooperating with US authorities, La Barbie reportedly passed the information on corrupt Mexican officials and their sharing of sensitive intelligence to members of the Sinaloa Cartel and Beltrán Leyva Organization, according to the report.

What’s more, La Barbie allegedly witnessed corrupt officials from the administration of former President Felipe Calderón, according to the report, providing cartels with identities, photographs, and locations of undercover DEA agents in Mexico. One of La Barbie’s most important contributions, according to the report, was passing along a tip that allowed Mexican marines to locate and kill his former boss, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, in 2009.

“If the DEA was getting this type of information from La Barbie, I’m surprised their operation wasn’t blown up sooner,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown told InSight Crime. “This level of egregiousness and risk to DEA operations would be shocking,” she added.

La Barbie was no run-of-the-mill criminal player. To get 50 years for being such an important asset would be a terrible plea bargain, according to Felbab-Brown. “There’s a clear mismatch between the length of the sentence and what information he supposedly provided,” she explained. La Barbie is expected to be a key cooperating witness in the trial of Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s former top security official from 2006 to 2012, who US authorities arrested in December 2019 on drug charges and taking millions in bribes from traffickers.

Genaro Garcia Luna’s US trial begins in 2023, and as Valdez-Villareal has accused Luna of corruption in the past; he is a potential witness. 

Garcia Luna Case

The case against former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna in New York is intensifying with additional new evidence of his guilt of corruption, money laundering, and drug trafficking being introduced recently. The allegations are detailed in a letter sent to García Luna’s lawyer and in a submission to a United States federal court in Brooklyn, New York, where the accused is scheduled to go on trial in January.
Milenio obtained a copy of the DOJ letter sent to lawyer César de Castro in which prosecutors said they have “records related to the shipment of narcotics into the United States through shell companies.”
Between 2002 and 2007, Garcia Luna allegedly aided at least six cocaine shipments totaling more than 50,000 kilos of cocaine. On at least two occasions, the Sinaloa Cartel personally delivered bribe payments to Garcia Luna in briefcases containing millions of dollars, according to the DOJ.

Prosecutors also handed over attorney De Castro, with the markings “protected material” and “only for the lawyer’s eyes,” the list of 4 possible witnesses for the prosecution against García Luna.

It could be possible that “La Barbie” will help to prove the charges against Luna. The ex-security minister and two former high-ranking officials who worked under him are accused by US authorities of allowing the Sinaloa Cartel to operate with impunity in Mexico in exchange for multimillion-dollar bribes. The Department of Justice had asked Valdez Villarreal to testify in the judicial process that was carried out in the District of Columbia against Alfredo Beltrán Leyva and in various cases whose investigations were still in progress at the time.
“La Barbie” was working as an informant for the DEA and FBI at the same time as he was drug trafficking, unknown to his bosses and partners in the drug trade, and to the corrupt officials to whom he paid bribes, including former Federal Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna. In a court document pending in the Northern District Court in Atlanta, Georgia, it is revealed that from 2008 to 2010 the drug trafficker gave sensitive information to the DEA office in San Antonio, Texas, to the FBI in McAllen, and to the FBI offices located in the United States embassy in Mexico through a third party.

In the document, it is kept classified who was the third person through which La Barbie communicated with the US government, to protect their life. And information about the public officials involved is also kept classified.

A transcript of the letter from Valdez Villarreal.

“La Barbie’s” Letter

In November 2012, La Barbie provided a letter, signed by him, in which he claims to have delivered million-dollar bribes to Genaro García Luna, and his large group of corrupt police officers headed by Luis Cárdenas Palomino, Facundo Rosas Rosas, Armando Espinosa de Benito, Eduardo Ramón Pequeño, Edgar Eusebio Millán, Francisco Javier Garza Palacios and Gerardo Garay Cadena. And having witnessed the payments they received from other drug lords. Valdez Villarreal states that President Felipe Calderón himself led meetings with drug traffickers. Information that he surely shared with the DEA and FBI at that time.

He also assured that his arrest was due to his refusal to make an agreement with President Felipe Calderón and the other criminal organizations. La Barbie knew that the American government was aware of the corruption of García Luna and his team because he himself would have revealed it as an informant.

“My arrest was the result of a political persecution by C. Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, who instituted a harassment (sic) against me for the reason that the undersigned refused to be part of the agreement that Mr. Calderón Hinojosa he wanted to have with all the organized crime groups, for which he personally held several meetings to have talks with organized crime groups,” he said. 

Garcia Luna and then President Felipe Calderón.

Sinaloa Cartel’s Presidential Connections

President Felipe Calderón stated that his government does not protect or shield or tolerate any group of drug traffickers, whatever their names are. He said that the accusations that his administration has not acted against the cartel headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán are totally unfounded and false and are made only out of ignorance. Last week criticism of the federal government arose for its fight against drug trafficking because Manuel Clouthier, a Sinaloan deputy for the PAN, criticized that the fight against organized crime had not touched the Sinaloa cartel, headed by “El Chapo.”

A judicial file recently released by US federal prosecutors reveals millionaire payments by the Sinaloa Cartel to the governments of Enrique Pena Nieto, and Felipe Calderón, as well as to a past presidential campaign of current Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The documents, dated January 15, 2019, as part of the trial against “El Chapo” accuses “El Mayo” Zambada of bribing the entire government of Mexico and framed Chapo, as part of a defense strategy attempting to downplay Chapo’s accused leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Carlos Montemayor, who is La Barbie’s father-in-law, was extradited as well in the same case. He was sentenced to 34 years in federal prison.

La Barbie’s Father-In-Law is Still in Custody

Carlos Montemayor also called El Licenciado or El Narcocharro, was a key cartel player when he started a criminal enterprise with his son-in-law La Barbie. Montemayor was also linked to the disappearance of 20 tourists in southern Mexico in September 2010. He was arrested there in 2010.

In February 2011, he was extradited to the United States to face trial at the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Montemayor built a trucking company that he used to smuggle cocaine for the cartel. He took over the drug cartel and the “La Barbie” criminal organization after Valdez Villarreal was taken into custody. Montemayor González, originally from Nuevo Laredo, used the surname of García Treviño to pose as a businessman and promoter of events for Charros in Huixquilucan in the state of Mexico.

“La Barbie” married his colleague’s daughter.
Montemayor González confessed to transporting more than a ton of cocaine to the United States between 2003 and 2005 with the help of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel. During that period “La Barbie” married one of the daughters of Montemayor González. Before “La Barbie” was captured, he told Montemayor González to take charge of the organization to ensure the economic future of his wife and to collect the drug shipments that were owed to him.
Villareal’s father-in-law, Carlos Montemayor Gonzalez, sentenced to 34 years in prison is shown as being at Williamsburg penitentiary.

“Montemayor came to the United States from Mexico and used his skills, hard work, and the opportunities afforded in this country to build a successful trucking company from the ground up,” said U.S. Attorney Byung Pak.

“However, he was ultimately driven by greed and partnered with Edgar Valdez-Villareal to convert his trucking company into a transportation arm for the Sinaloa and Beltran-Leyva cartels, shipping tons of cocaine and drug money across the United States,” Montemayor informed the district court that he wanted to enter a non-negotiated guilty plea to all six counts he was charged with committing. In 2019, he was sentenced to 34 years in prison and was ordered to forfeiture of $192 million dollars, the same amount as La Barbie. 

Montemayor appealed his sentence in 2020, arguing that he should not have been ordered to pay the same amount ($192 million) as the lead defendant in the case, his son-in-law, “La Barbie” Edgar Valdez-Villareal. It was under review to determine if his non-conditional guilty plea to the charges waived his right to an appeal. While the district court did advise Montemayor of his right to appeal, it did not make his appeal conditional because it was not in writing, was not consented to by the government, and the district court’s statement did not reference the disqualification of Montemayor’s counsel. A defendant who wishes to preserve appellate review of a non-jurisdictional defect while at the same time pleading guilty can do so only by entering a “conditional plea”. The conditional plea must be in writing and must be consented to by the court and by the government.

Montemayor’s notice of appeal was filed before the district court determined how much money he would be required to forfeit. Although his premature notice of appeal became effective to appeal the final judgment and conviction when those were later entered, it could not become effective to appeal the forfeiture order because the district court determined the forfeiture amount separately. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions and granted the government’s partial motion to dismiss.

He is currently listed as in custody at Williamsburg Federal Correctional Institute in South Carolina.