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Actor Armie Hammer Obtains Life Rights For 'La Barbie'

By McCarton Ackerman 01/20/16

The actor used his direct access to the cartel leader to acquire the rights.

Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer has officially secured the life rights to Mexican cartel leader Edgar-Valdez Villarreal, otherwise known as “La Barbie.” The actor confirmed that he is now looking to produce a TV series or movie based on his life story.

Ironically, Hammer began looking at securing La Barbie’s life rights when he himself was arrested in Texas 2012 after being caught at the border with marijuana edibles. His attorney in the now-dismissed case, Kent Schaffer, also represented the cartel leader. Hammer and his wife met with one of La Barbie’s family members to first establish trust and then the cartel leader began exchanging letters with them from his cell at Altiplano prison in Mexico. After three years of communicating with Hammer and his wife, he agreed to give them his life rights.

“Owning La Barbie’s life rights was the most important thing to us,” said Hammer to Buzzfeed News. “We knew that having direct access to him meant access to stories that were never intended to see the light of day.”

La Barbie, 42, is believed by government officials to have been the highest-ranking American-born member of Mexico’s drug trafficking network. He first began as a marijuana distributor at a Texas border town, but moved into cocaine and quickly began establishing customers across the southern United States. La Barbie then established a relationship with Arturo Beltrán-Leyva of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico. The pair began coordinating weekly shipments of hundreds of pounds of cocaine from South America to the U.S. until La Barbie’s arrest in 2010.

He was detained at Altiplano, but authorities became concerned after El Chapo successfully escaped from the facility last July. Schaffer said that La Barbie, along with five other inmates, were taken out of their cells without warning shortly after and extradited to the United States.

“They don’t give anyone notice because they are afraid there will be an escape attempt,” explained Schaffer. “The Chapo escape already hurt, but if other people escaped as well it would provide worldwide embarrassment that they would never recover from. So the easiest thing to do would be to put them all on the plane and ship them back, which they did.”

Earlier this month, La Barbie pleaded guilty at a federal court in Atlanta to charges of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine and conspiring to launder money. He could be sentenced to life in prison on the charges.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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