Cartel hitman infamous for decapitating enemies goes missing from US prison

A cartel hitman who filmed torture sessions and is thought to have been involved in dozens of decapitations has gone missing from a federal prison in mysterious circumstances.

Edgar Valdez-Villareal is serving a 49-year sentence that runs until 2056 but has been removed from the federal Bureau of Prisons website and is now listed as “not in BOP custody”.

The 49-year-old, nicknamed “La Barbie” because of his physical resemblance to a Ken doll, had been serving his sentence in Florida.

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The Mexican-American cartel leader headed up Los Negros, an enforcement group of the Beltran Leyva cartel.

Valdez-Villareal has also previously been a lieutenant for the Sinaloa Cartel, run by notorious convicted drug dealer Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman-Loera.

Having been charged in the US with dealing marijuana, Valdez-Villareal moved to Mexico in the 1990s.

Millions of dollars worth of bounties were placed on his head over the years but he continued to evade authorities until he was captured following a gun fight in 2010.

Following the December 2009 death of cartel leader Arturo Beltran-Leyva, La Barbie launched a brutal battle for control of the Beltran-Leyva cartel.

While leader of Los Negros, one of the most brutal gangs in the Mexican underworld, he participated in torture, which he often videotaped, and recruited police officers and rival cartel members as informants, according to reports in Mexico.

In 2010 four decapitated bodies were found during a vicious turf war, with a warning that anyone who helped Valdez-Villareal would meet a similar feat.

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By the time of his capture, he was the only American citizen to have ever risen so high in the ranks of Mexico’s cartels.

While working for El Chapo, Valdez-Villareal was asked to help bribe Mexican prison employees to get long johns to the cartel leader’s son.

When two men demanded $500,000 (£409,000) rather than the original $100,000 (£82,000) bribe, La Barbie reportedly ratted them out which led to their torturous deaths.

US authorities says he was responsible for much of the violence that erupted in the area, claiming he recruited other gang members to eliminate his rivals.

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.

Mexican government officials have questioned why he is no longer listed as being in BOP custody.

“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.”

A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons refused to say why Valdez-Villareal was no longer in federal custody, but told The New York 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 said.

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