La Barbie in the burbs? Missing Mexican cartel hitman may be in witness protection

Edgar Valdez Villarreal
Texas-born fugitive Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie” because of his light eyes and complexion, stands during his presentation to the media in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini, File)

La Barbie in the burbs? Missing Mexican cartel hitman may be in witness protection

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The cartel drug lord known as La Barbie, who mysteriously vanished from a Florida prison last week, much to the astonishment of the Mexican government, is likely in the U.S. witness protection program and aiding prosecutors in an upcoming corruption trial, federal agents believe.

Edgar Valdez Villarreal disappeared from the Bureau of Prisons public database a week ago, despite serving a 49-year sentence imposed on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering between the United States and Mexico.

The Texas native was a boss in Mexico’s Betran Leyva-Cartel, terrorizing rival gangs with videotaped beheadings and torture sessions.

While Mexican government officials, including President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, have demanded to know Villarreal’s whereabouts, they probably don’t have to look further than the upcoming U.S. bribery trial of the country’s former top law enforcement official accused of working with the Sinaloa Cartel, federal agents say.

“It reeks of cutting a deal, and he [likely] is in the witness protection program,” a former agent told the Washington Examiner. “The first thing I think of is he probably had inner knowledge of the El Chapo network, and it’s possible to give information in return for a shorter sentence.”

Genaro Garcia Luna, the former secretary of public security in Mexico from 2006 to 2012, is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 6 in New York for taking millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for ignoring the criminal activities of the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Villarreal told a Mexican journalist in 2012 that former President Filipe Calderon also received bribes along with Garcia Luna.


“I know for a fact that he has received money from me, from drug trafficking and organized crime,” Villarreal said of Garcia Luna.

Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told a Mexican radio program that Villarreal has “a lot of information, and the U.S. government is interested in that information.”

“I tell you this because everyone knows that,” Vigil said of Villarreal’s potential involvement in Garcia Luna’s trial. “Barbie cooperated not only with the DEA but also with FBI in the past, and he has a great reason. He has been sentenced to 49 years in prison, and he probably won’t get out of prison alive in that time, and he doesn’t want to die in prison.”

Vigil said Villarreal “always said he has information against Garcia Luna.”

However, getting a federal agency to confirm the whereabouts of Villarreal will not be possible because only a small group of people have that information due to safety concerns, Vigil said.

The U.S. Marshals Service, which operates the witness protection program, did not return a phone call from the Washington Examiner.

The Bureau of Prisons has issued a statement saying Villarreal was not in its custody and the reasons could include court hearings or medical treatment.


“We do not provide specific information on the status of inmates who are not in the custody of BOP for safety, security, or privacy concerns,” the bureau said.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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