Chapo’s Wife Pleads Guilty to Drug and Laundering Conspiracy

The wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman pleaded guilty on Thursday to narcotics trafficking and money laundering conspiracy charges, almost two years after Guzman was sentenced to life in prison.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, has been in U.S. custody since she was arrested at Dulles International Airport in Virginia in February, accused of helping her husband operate the multibillion-dollar Sinaloa cartel and aiding his escape from a Mexican prison through an underground tunnel.

She pleaded guilty, in federal court in Washington, to conspiring to distribute illegal drugs in the U.S. and to launder money, and to engaging in transactions with a foreign narcotics trafficker.

Coronel, a U.S. citizen born in California, admitted working for the drug empire in a scheme that began around the time of her marriage to Guzman in 2007 and ran to the end of 2019. Guzman was convicted of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, as well as on drug trafficking and firearms charges, as leader of the cartel.

As part of a plea agreement, Coronel faces nine to 11 years in prison, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Her lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said after court that Coronel wasn’t cooperating with U.S. authorities but hopes to receive a lesser term. He said she had pleaded guilty to being a “minimal participant” in her husband’s drug trafficking.

“She’s at ease with her decision and looking forward with getting on with her life and returning to her children, which we hope will be sooner rather than later,” Lichtman said in an interview.

Coronel, a former beauty queen and the mother of the couple’s twin daughters, married Guzman when she was 17. Her father, Ines Omar Coronel Aispuro, was himself a member of the cartel, according to U.S. prosecutors. A Mexican court sentenced him in 2017 to more than 10 years in prison for marijuana trafficking.

Emma Coronel was originally charged in a one-count criminal complaint that alleged she conspired to distribute drugs for unlawful importation into the U.S. Federal prosecutors also initially claimed she tried to help Guzman escape from another Mexican prison before his January 2017 extradition to the U.S. He was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, in 2019.

Coronel will remain in custody until her Sept. 15 sentencing.

The case is U.S. v. Emma Coronel Aispuro, 21-cr-255, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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