A cartel leader and hitman who beheaded at least dozens of opponents has vanished from a federal prison in Florida where he was serving a 49-year sentence.
Edgar Valdez-Villareal, a Mexican American cartel leader, had been mysteriously removed from the federal Bureau of Prisons website as of November. He is now listed as “not in BOP custody” despite his release date stated for July 27, 2056.
Valdez-Villareal, 49, popularly known as “La Barbie,” headed up the Los Negros, an enforcement group of the Beltran Leyva cartel, one of Mexico’s most ruthless underworld groups. At one point, he was a top lieutenant for the Sinaloa Cartel, run by convicted drug dealer Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman-Loera.
After the December 2009 death of cartel leader Arturo Beltran-Leyva, La Barbie launched a brutal battle for control of the Beltran-Leyva cartel. As a leader of Los Negros, he participated in torture, which he often videotaped, and recruited police officers and rival cartel members as informants, according to Mexican news reports.
During a war between cartels in Cuernavaca in August 2010, four decapitated bodies were found hanging from a bridge with a warning that anyone helping La Barbie would suffer a similar end.
He was finally captured during a firefight with Mexican authorities at a rural home northwest of Mexico City in 2010. At the time of his capture, he was the only American citizen to have ever risen so high in the ranks of Mexico’s cartels.
La Barbie moved to Mexico in the 1990s after being charged in the US with dealing marijuana, according to reports. He soon became one of the ruthless underworld enforcers in the battles between drug traffickers that left hundreds dead in Mexico.
Valdez-Villareal was indicted in the US in 2010 and extradited to the US five years later, where he was found guilty of drug trafficking and money laundering.
The question of why he is no longer in BOP custody was asked at the highest levels of the Mexican government last week.
“It’s very strange what is going on in the United States with Mr. Villareal, who is no longer registered among those in custody and we want to know where he is,” said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a press conference.
“There is no reason for him to leave prison because he was condemned to many years, unless there was some kind of an agreement.”
Some experts on the Mexican cartels say that Valdez-Villareal could have made a deal with federal authorities.
“He could be providing information on high-ranking cartel members, but even if this were the case I can’t see him being released from custody,” said Robert Almonte, a security consultant and former deputy chief of the Texas Police Department in El Paso. “He’s very dangerous. He’s killed people and he’s extremely violent and still has these connections to the cartels.”
A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons refused to say why Valdez-Villareal was no longer in federal custody, but told The Post that there could be many reasons. Inmates can be temporarily removed from the site if they are undergoing court hearings, medical treatments or unspecified “other reasons.”
“We do not provide specific information on the status of inmates who are not in the custody of the BOP for safety, security or privacy reasons,” the spokesman told The Post.