Alleged cartel kingpin ‘La Barbie’ to plead guilty, attorney says

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Edgar Valdez Villareal, known as "La Barbie" and a dual Mexican and American citizen who rose to a top position in the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, plans to plead guilty to U.S. federal charges this week, his attorney told CNN.

(CNN) — Edgar Valdez Villareal, known as “La Barbie” and a dual Mexican and American citizen who rose to a top position in the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, plans to plead guilty to U.S. federal charges this week, his attorney told CNN.

Valdez will plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, attempt to import or export cocaine, and money laundering, attorney Wilmer “Buddy” Parker said.

Valdez is believed to have played a key role in shipping roughly 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of cocaine across the border at Laredo, Texas, every week for much of 2005, U.S. authorities have said.

Parker said his client did not make an agreement of cooperation with the U.S. government and the sentence he could receive is still unknown.

Valdez, known as “La Barbie” because of his blue eyes and light complexion, was allegedly a one-time top lieutenant of Mexico’s most-wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

He later joined the breakaway Beltran Leyva cartel, but the leader of that group, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in a shootout with Mexican officials in late 2009. Beltran’s brother Carlos was arrested, leaving Valdez in a fight to fill a power vacuum in one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels.

Mexican authorities touted Valdez’s 2010 arrest as a high-profile win in the nation’s drug war. Valdez, a one-time Texas high school football star, was feared for his reputation for brutality, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

After he was captured, the Mexican attorney general’s office published a video of his confession, in which he said he managed lucrative drug routes from Panama to the United States.

His extradition in September came just two months after Guzman made a brazen escape from the Altiplano Federal Prison. The escape prompted widespread criticism of Mexico’s ability to handle high-profile criminals, with some pointing to issues with corruption and the power wielded by drug cartels in the country.

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