He made his operation base in the once little dusty border town of Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico, and had his greatest power in the period around 1984-1986. Through a protection scheme with Mexican federal and state police agencies and with the Mexican army, Acosta was able to ensure the security for five tons of cocaine being flown by turboprop aircraft every month from Colombia to Ojinaga —sometimes landing at the municipal airport, sometimes at dirt airstrips on ranches upriver from Ojinaga.
Chains of luxurious restaurants and hotels laundered his drug money. While at first he only managed marijuana and heroin, Acosta Villarreal became increasingly involved in the cocaine trade near the end of his life. He established contacts with Colombians who wanted to smuggle cocaine into the United States using the same routes to Texas Acosta Villarreal was using to ship marijuana and heroin from across the border in Chihuahua.
Acosta Villarreal was killed in April 1987 during a cross-border raid by Mexican Federal Police helicopters in the Rio Grande village of Santa Elena, Chihuahua. Rafael Aguilar Guajardo took Acosta's place but he was killed soon after by Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who took control of the organization. The book Drug Lord by investigative journalist Terrance Poppa, chronicles the rise and fall of Acosta Villarreal through direct interviews he did with this drug lord.