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Wife of ‘El Chapo’ Could Face Decade in US Prison After Guilty Plea

Brittany Jordan



WASHINGTON—The wife of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Emma Coronel Aispuro, on Thursday pleaded guilty in a U.S. federal court to helping her husband run the Sinaloa cartel, charges that could lead to more than a decade in prison.

Clad in a green jumpsuit and wearing a white face mask, Coronel appeared before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington, D.C., and pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiring to distribute illegal drugs, conspiring to launder money, and engaging in financial dealings with the Sinaloa drug cartel.

As part of her plea agreement, she also admitted to conspiring to helping her husband escape in 2015 from Altiplano, a Mexican maximum-security prison.

Without showing any obvious emotion and her face covered by a mask, Coronel said she understood the charges and the repercussions of her guilty plea.

“Everything is clear,” she told the judge.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of Joaquin Guzman, the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo,” exits the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, following the sentencing of Guzman in the Brooklyn borough of New York, on July 17, 2019. (Brendan McDermid/File Photo/Reuters)

Coronel could face up to life in prison for the drug distribution charge alone. The other two counts against her carry maximum prison terms of 20 years and 10 years, respectively.

However, under U.S. sentencing guidelines, she could be looking at a range of nine years to a little more than 11 years in prison, assuming she accepts responsibility for her actions, according to her plea agreement.

The 31-year-old former beauty queen was arrested in February on allegations that she relayed messages to help Guzman traffic drugs from 2012 to early 2014, and continued delivering messages while visiting him in a Mexican prison following his February 2014 arrest.

Coronel was born in California and holds both U.S. and Mexican citizenship.

Guzman, 64, was convicted in February 2019 in a high-profile Brooklyn trial of masterminding a multibillion-dollar drug enterprise for the Sinaloa cartel.

Mexican drug trafficker "el Chapo Guzman"
Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin Guzman Loera aka “el Chapo Guzman” (C), is escorted by marines as he is presented to the press in Mexico City, on Feb. 22, 2014. (Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images)

He was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years, and locked up in the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

As part of her plea agreement, Coronel acknowledged that she acted as an intermediary with the cartel while Guzman was inside Mexico’s Altiplano prison, delivering messages back and forth.

In this role, he told her he wanted to escape through an underground tunnel, and asked her to help arrange these plans with his sons and other cartel members.

She later met with someone known as “Cleto,” who delivered to her more than $1 million in cash, some of which she used to pay off prison officials.

Coronel also met with a second person named Lazaro, and she paid him to buy land close to the prison to where a tunnel could be built.

She kept her husband abreast of all developments as the tunnel was built, and gave her husband a GPS-enabled watch, which he then used to help guide the people building the tunnel from his cell.

As a condition of her plea on Thursday, Coronel’s assets will be subject to forfeiture, and she will be required to submit to any law enforcement interview “regarding all assets within her possession,” the agreement says, adding she must “fully cooperate in providing any and all financial information and documentation.”

The judge set a tentative sentencing date of Sept. 15.

Brittany Jordan is an award-winning journalist who reports on breaking news in the U.S. and globally for the Federal Inquirer. Prior to her position at the Federal Inquirer, she was a general assignment features reporter for Newsweek, where she wrote about technology, politics, government news and important global events around the world. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Toronto Star, Frederick News-Post, West Hawaii Today, the Miami Herald, and more. Brittany enjoys food, travel, photography, and hoarding notebooks and journals. Her goal is to do more longform features journalism, narrative writing and documentary work, and to one day write a successful novel and screenplay.

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