Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of the infamous Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, pleaded guilty Thursday to helping her husband run his global criminal empire nearly a decade ago and then, after one of his arrests, to escape from a strict secure Mexican prison.
Ms. Coronel, 31, appeared in a green suit at a hearing in federal court in Washington and admitted that as of 2011, she helped her husband, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, smuggle at least 450 pounds of cocaine, 90 pounds of heroin and nearly 90,000 pounds. kilos of marijuana to the United States.
Ms Coronel also admitted to relaying messages from Mr Guzmán to a team of conspirators who helped him escape from Altiplano prison, near Toluca, Mexico, in 2015. long tunnel dug in the shower of his cell.
The court hearing, though brief, sparked interest in the United States and Mexico, where Ms. Coronel, a dual US-Mexican citizen, has remained a subject of fascination, fueled in part by her lavish social media habits. She was a constant presence at the Brooklyn trial of Mr. Guzmán three years ago, coming and going often in a whirl of TV cameras, publicity consultants, and expensive perfumes.
According to her plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Ms. Coronel, who… arrested in February at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, was labeled a "minimal participant" in the crimes committed by her husband's former organization, the Sinaloa drug cartel. Under the agreement, she faces 108 to 135 months in prison if convicted in September, but her attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said she may be serving less time.
"She is pleased to be able to put all this behind her and is looking forward to returning to her children," said Mr Lichtman. "We expect a punishment that will not destroy her life."
Although prosecutors presented important evidence during Guzmán's trial that Ms. Coronel, his third – or possibly fourth – wife, was involved in international drug deals, sometimes involving her own father, she has been roaming more or less freely for the past two years. as US. law enforcement officers investigated her and eventually negotiated her surrender.
Guzmán, who was convicted in early 2019, is now serving a life sentence in the so-called Supermax, the safest federal prison in the United States.
Despite incessant chatter in the news media, not a single provision in Ms. Coronel's nine-page advocacy agreement called for cooperation with U.S. authorities. While there was intense speculation at the time of her arrest as to whether she would pass the cartel's secrets to investigators, it remains unclear who she might be working against. Her husband has been in U.S. custody since 2017, and many of the criminal associates against whom she would have theoretically testified testified at his trial of Mr. Guzmán.
Law enforcement officers say Mr Guzmán's business interests are looked after by four of his sons who are collectively known as Los Chapitos and were born to women other than Ms Coronel. Each is facing federal charges in the United States but remains at large in Mexico.
Zach Montague reporting contributed.