Soon she felt at home with athletes, celebrities, moguls, and drug lords. Her career skyrocketed and at the age of twenty-one she won the title of Reinado Internacional del Café (International Queen of Coffee) beauty pageant in Colombia.
Afterwards she spent eight years in Mexico before moving to Buenos Aires with her Argentinean boyfriend, Nicolas Gualco.
She rose to fame as the ringleader of one of the world’s largest Colombian drug rings, while her occupation as a lingerie model and TV star thrived.
She employed a simple method of transporting the drugs from Argentina to England by way of Cancun, using models, paying them up to five thousand dollars to pack one hundred pounds of cocaine into their luggage.
They wore skimpy dresses through customs, causing the agents to forfeit common sense and do anything to expedite the women’s clearance.
Her recklessness and craving for media attention brought about the beginning of her downfall. On December 13, 2009, authorities stopped a twenty-one year old Colombian model named Maria Noel Lopez Iglesias in Eziza International Airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina as she prepared to board a flight bound for Cancun. Investigation of her suitcase revealed one hundred twenty-one pounds of cocaine.
Iglesias led them to an apartment in Buenos Aires where three other individuals were implicated and arrested, with a warrant issued for Valencia’s arrest.
She abandoned a hotel room authorities believed she occupied; however they traced an address through her Pomeranian dog’s registration records. Further investigation revealed this to be an abandoned warehouse.
In January of 2010, Gualco left his home to purchase a phone card and never returned. Worried, Valencia discovered news of his arrest as a suspect in a drug trafficking case.
She panicked and fled, evading authorities for five months until her arrest in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in May of the same year. She maintained her innocence throughout her trial, claiming she came to Argentina to meet Gualco’s family and marry him, not smuggle drugs.
Valencia blamed Gualco’s uncle, for tempting him into the family run drug business upon his return to Argentina.
The prosecution brought evidence of a phone call made by her to his uncle, asking him to call Fermin, an alleged Mexican kingpin.
She claimed the call was made as a favor to her fiance, who feared his uncle’s life was in danger, with no reference made to drugs or money.
Once renowned for her beauty and grace, this Colombian beauty queen now resides in a prison cell, serving her sentence of six years and eight months.
Her downfall began with the arrest of model Maria Noel Lopez and ended with Valencia’s capture in May of 2010. She maintains her innocence and claims her fiance’s family pulled her in and used her as a scapegoat.