By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 30, 2010; 11:52 PM
MEXICO CITY - A high school football star from Texas who went on to become one of the most wanted drug traffickers in Mexico was arrested Monday by federal police.
Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias "La Barbie," was captured alive north of Mexico City after being the subject of an intense, year-long manhunt by Mexico and the United States, according to a statement from Mexican authorities.
La Barbie, bestowed with the nickname by his football coach for having the handsome looks of a Ken doll, was indicted in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in May for allegedly distributing thousands of pounds of cocaine from Mexico to the U.S. East Coast, including shipments that would have likely made their way to the Washington area.
Valdez is one of the only Mexican Americans to rise to a prominent leadership position in a Mexican trafficking cartel, and according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement, La Barbie did it by becoming a notorious killer and gang enforcer.
According to U.S. law enforcement sources, Valdez's voice can be heard on a widely circulated YouTube video interrogating a group of rivals before a gun appears and the men are shot in the head.
The 37-year-old alleged gangster grew up in a middle-class home in Laredo, Tex., just across the Rio Grande from the violence that now sweeps across northern Mexico. According to U.S. and Mexican agents, he got his start dealing and then smuggling marijuana.
Mexican and U.S. authorities say Valdez was fighting among his associates for control of the Beltran Leyva cartel after the death of its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva. He was shot dead last December by Mexican marines guided to his luxury condominium in Cuernavaca, a city just south of the Mexican capital, with help from U.S. anti-drug agents.
The United States and Mexico had each offered a $2 million reward for information leading to a Valdez capture. It is likely the United States will seek his extradition to face charges in Atlanta.
The arrest came barely a month after agents in Guadalajara shot and killed another major drug boss, Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, a major leader of the Sinaloa cartel, the most powerful in Mexico.