So brazen is Valdez-Villareal, authorities said, that he sent a message to the Mexican government printed in a local newspaper.
Filmmaker Rusty Fleming, who researched Valdez for his film 'Drug Wars,' summarized the message, saying, "You're never going to eradicate the supply of dope any more than you are going to eradicate the demand ... somebody's going to do it and I'm the lesser of all evils. We don't kill women and children. [...] If you're going to have somebody smuggling drugs through our country to the U.S. and the world, it should be me."
Where is Edgar Valdez-Villareal now? Some say he's on the beach in Acapulco, hiding out in plain sight.
"He's probably had some plastic surgery," speculated Fleming. "Many of your high level drug lords, especially those wanted in the U.S., do some kind of facial reconstruction or something to alter their looks."
On the American side of the border, ABC News tracked down Valdez-Villareal's mother, who described him as a good man, but admitted she hasn't heard from her son "in a very long time."
"There is never a good outcome with a kid like this," said the detective, who asked to remain anonymous. "He's either going to be killed or captured by the Mexican military or federal police inside of Mexico, or he is going to die in a hail of bullets by a cartel rival."
That's the tragic, high price of crime in the Mexican drug wars.