Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of infamous Mexican drug lord El Chapo, pleaded guilty Thursday to helping her husband run his global criminal empire nearly a decade ago and then escaping a high-security Mexican prison after one of his arrests .
Ms. Coronel, 31, who appeared at a federal court hearing in Washington in a green suit, admitted that since 2011 she has been helping her husband, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, smuggle at least 450 kilograms of cocaine, 90 kilograms of heroin and nearly 90,000 Kilograms of marijuana to the US.
Ms. Coronel also admitted delivering messages from Mr. Guzmán to a team of conspirators helping him break out of Altiplano Prison near Toluca, Mexico in 2015 – a dramatic escape that involved a self-powered railroad car and a Mile long tunnel dug into the shower in his cell.
The court appearance, though brief, piqued interest in the United States and Mexico, where Ms. Coronel, a US-Mexican citizen, has remained a subject of fascination, partly fueled by their lavish social media habits. Three years ago she was constantly present at Mr. Guzmán’s trial in Brooklyn and often came and went in a vortex of television cameras, advertising consultants and expensive perfume.
According to her plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Ms. Coronel, who was arrested in February at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, has been labeled a “minimal participant” in the crimes of her husband’s former organization, the Sinaloa drug cartel. Under the agreement, she faces 108 to 135 months in prison if sentenced in September, but her attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said she may be serving less time.
“She is happy to be able to leave all of this behind and looks forward to returning to her children,” said Lichtman. “We expect a punishment that won’t destroy your life.”
Although prosecutors produced significant evidence in the Guzmán trial that involved Ms Coronel, his third – or possibly fourth – wife, in international drug deals, some of which involved her own father, she has been more or less free for the past two years as US police 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 USA.
Despite the incessant chatter in the news media, there was no provision in Ms. Coronel’s nine-page plea agreement calling for cooperation with the American authorities. While at the time of her arrest there was fierce speculation about whether she would reveal the cartel’s secrets to investigators, it remains unclear who she might be working against. Her husband has been in US custody since 2017, and many of the criminal staff she could theoretically testify testified against Mr. Guzmán during his trial.
Law enforcement officials say Mr Guzmán’s business interests are served by four of his sons, collectively known as Los Chapitos, who were born to other women as Ms. Coronel. Each of them is charged in the United States but remains at large in Mexico.
Zach Montague Reporting contributed.