Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of Mexico’s most notorious drug dealer, better known as El Chapo, was arrested on Monday and charged with helping her husband run his multibillion dollar criminal empire and d ‘plotting to get him out of prison after his capture in 2014.
Ms. Coronel, a former beauty queen, had been under investigation for at least two years by US federal authorities for complicity with her husband, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, convicted in 2019 during a trial in Brooklyn for orchestrating a huge drug plot. and was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.
Court documents filed in Ms Coronel’s case say she relayed messages for Mr Guzmán that helped him carry out drug shipments from 2012 to 2014 and escape capture by legions of US authorities and Mexican women who had pursued him for years. During Mr Guzmán’s trial, evidence showed Ms Coronel was also one of the main conspirators in a sophisticated plot to get him out of the Altiplano prison in Mexico by digging a close tunnel a mile long in the shower of his cell.
Ms. Coronel, 31, is a dual Mexican-American citizen with roots in both Southern California and the city of Culiacán in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, which has long served as the base of operations for Mr. Guzmán’s anti-drug organization, the Sinaloa cartel. She was taken into custody at Dulles International Airport, near Washington, and is scheduled to appear for the first time in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday. His lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, who also represented Mr Guzmán, declined to comment on the arrest.
While it is unusual for law enforcement to prey on the wives of prominent drug figures, prosecutors in Mr. Guzmán’s trial have presented substantial evidence that Ms. Coronel, unlike other wives drug trafficker, was deeply involved in her husband’s criminal affairs.
They presented BlackBerry messages clearly stating that she had helped Mr. Guzmán run his operations – sometimes with his own father. Other posts indicated that she was intimately involved not only in Mr. Guzmán’s notorious tunnel escape from the Altiplano in 2015, but also in helping him escape capture by US and Mexican authorities after a raid. botched in 2012 in the Mexican resort of Cabo San Lucas.
During Mr Guzmán’s trial, his former chief of staff, Dámaso López Núñez, told the jury that Ms Coronel had sought to help her husband escape once again after his takeover in 2016 and his return to the Altiplano. According to Mr. López’s testimony, Ms. Coronel devised a plot to bribe the top Mexican prison official, but before the plan could be carried out, Mr. Guzmán was extradited to the United States for to be judged there.
Ms Coronel, who is Mr Guzmán’s third – if not fourth – wife and mother of two of his many children, grew up in the drug business. Documents filed by the court indicate that his father, Inés Coronel Barreras, who was detained in 2013 in Mexico, was one of Mr. Guzmán’s main lieutenants.
Prosecutors have filed charges against several members of Mr. Guzmán’s nuclear family. His two eldest sons, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar and Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar, still at large in Mexico, have been charged in the United States for years. Two of his youngest sons, Joaquín Guzmán López and Ovidio Guzmán López, were indicted in Washington just days after their father’s conviction and also remain fugitives.
The FBI said Ms Coronel married Mr Guzmán around 2007. The marriage – in the rugged mountainous region of Culiacán – took place when Ms Coronel was 17 and Mr Guzmán was more than double his age.
In an interview with the New York Times during Mr Guzmán’s trial, Ms Coronel defended her husband, saying she did not recognize him as the drug lord prosecutors described him. “I admire him as the human being that I have met,” she says, “and the one that I married.”
She was a constant presence in the New York courtroom during the three-month trial, often showing up in the latest fashion trends. Fiercely loyal to her husband – despite her serial diligence – Ms Coronel orchestrated one of the trial’s most dramatic non-legal moments, sending a message to one of Mr Guzmán’s mistresses, Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, who one day appeared as a witness.
After Ms Sánchez López proclaimed her love for Mr Guzmán from the podium, Ms Coronel arranged for her husband to arrive in court the next day with a burgundy velvet smoking jacket, identical to the one she was wearing. It was a sign that Ms Coronel was Mr Guzmán’s wife and that Ms Sánchez López, in her blue prison uniform, was just the other woman.
On Monday evening, it was not clear why federal authorities arrested Ms Coronel after implicating her in her husband’s crime more than two years ago.