June 11 (UPI) -- A Texas man who became a leader of a Mexican cartel was sentenced to 49 years and one month in federal prison, the Department of Justice said Monday.
Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez-Villareal was sentenced on charges of cocaine trafficking and money laundering for importing drugs into the United States from Mexico as part of the Beltran-Leyva Cartel, according to the Justice Department.
U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. also ordered him to pay $192 million.
"Valdez-Villareal imported tons of cocaine into the U.S. while ruthlessly working his way up the ranks of one of Mexico's most powerful cartels, leaving in his wake countless lives destroyed by drugs and violence," U.S. Attorney Byung Pak said. "The highest levels of Mexican drug cartel should know that, like La Barbie, they will be held accountable for their crimes."
Pak said Valdez-Villareal first began working as a marijuana distributor in Laredo, Texas, in 2000. His operations soon expanded to include trafficking cocaine across state lines and he eventually developed relationships with Arturo Beltran-Leyva and Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman-Loera.
In 2004, Valdez-Villareal and his partners began to obtain cocaine from Colombia to export it through Mexico to customers in the United States.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration used wiretaps, witness testimonies, seizures of cocaine and $4 million of drug proceeds to build a case against Valdez-Villareal.
Valdez-Villareal was extradited to the United States alongside 12 other people suspected of drug trafficking and violent crime in October 2015.
He was convicted of conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and conspiracy to launder money on January 6, 2016, after entering a guilty plea.