MEXICO CITY (AP) — A former Texas high school football player and petty street dealer who allegedly rose to become one of Mexico’s most savage assassins says he personally knew the country’s top drug lords and shipped cocaine from Colombia through Panama.
In a video released by Mexico’s federal police, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as “the Barbie” for his fair complexion and green eyes, also told his interrogators that he transported cash hidden in trailers and spent $200,000 to make a film based on his life.
The flamboyant suspect — he once owned a bar in Acapulco called “XXXoticas” — decided not to release the movie because it might reveal too much information about him.
Authorities described him as a drug hit man who went on to become a major trafficker, shipping a ton of cocaine a month and thinking he would never be caught.
Instead, with his arrest Monday, Valdez became the third major drug lord brought down by Mexico in less than a year. The 37-year-old Valdez faces charges in three U.S. states for trucking in tons of cocaine.
“I have work … investments, there in Colombia,” he said, laughing, on the tape that was broadcast late Tuesday and provided to news organizations, including The Associated Press.
When asked if he worked in drugs, he replied yes.
Valdez’s U.S. attorney, Kent Schaffer, said Wednesday he has been stonewalled so far in getting access to his client.
“I don’t know if it’s dummied up … I don’t if that’s what he said or if it’s true,” Schaffer said about the interrogation video, which he had not seen. “That’s the perfect reason why they’re trying to keep him from talking to his lawyer … so they can get whatever they can get under whatever conditions they can.”
Schaffer said it appears the U.S. will seek deportation of Valdez, a U.S. citizen who is in Mexico illegally.
“Whether an actual request has been made, that I don’t know,” he said.
Authorities said Valdez could provide intelligence on other top traffickers, including Sinaloa chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most-wanted drug lord.
Valdez told interrogators that he knew the principal leaders of the drug cartels, such as Guzman, the brothers Arturo and Hector Beltran Leyva, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and Jose Gerardo “El Indio” Alvarez, whom he called his friend.
His arrest at the entrance to a ranch outside Mexico City also yielded computers, telephones and other equipment authorities said would likely provide more information about his group.
Valdez’s capture in some ways is more significant than the downfall of the other two suspected drug lords, Arturo Beltran Leyva and Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel, who were killed in gunbattles with Mexican military forces, said David Johnson, assistant U.S. secretary of state for international narcotics.
Valdez can provide the kind of information to dismantle an organization, he said.
In fact, as Mexican authorities presented Valdez Tuesday, Colombian authorities announced they had detained 11 people allegedly linked to him in that cocaine-producing South American country. Mexican Federal Police Commissioner Facundo Rosas said the arrests were likely related, with Colombian authorities taking advantage of a break in Valdez’s organization.
Local media also showed a video from inside the three-level residence where he was arrested, including paintings of religious subjects, horses and flowers, Gucci and Cartier boxes, big-screen TVs, a pool table and a bar.
Mexican police said they chased Valdez across five Mexican states for a year, a pursuit that intensified in recent months as they raided home after home owned by the drug lord, missing him but nabbing several of his allies.
The biggest break came in December, when Mexican marines killed cartel lord Arturo Beltran Leyva during a gunbattle in Cuernavaca.
That unleashed a gruesome fight between Valdez and Beltran Leyva’s brother, Hector, the only one of the cartel’s founders who was still at large. Decapitated and dismembered bodies littered the streets of Cuernavaca and Acapulco — and often hung from bridges — along with messages threatening one of the two feuding factions.
An elite, U.S.-trained Mexican federal police squad arrested Valdez and four accomplices on Monday.
“We were on his heels for the last six weeks, receiving tips, but Mexican law enforcement would show up and they would miss him,” one U.S. official said. “He was feeling the heat of Mexican law enforcement.”
Associated Press writers Mark Stevenson reported from Mexico City and Paul Weber from Laredo, Texas. AP writers Eduardo Castillo, Alexandra Olson and Istra Pacheco in Mexico City; Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston and Mat Otero in Dallas, and Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz, California, contributed to this report.