The wife of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has pleaded guilty to a series of charges, including conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, appeared in court in Washington and admitted to helping Guzmán lead the Sinaloa drug cartel and aiding his escape from prison in 2015.
She could face life imprisonment and be fined up to $10 million (£7.1 million).
Guzmán, 63, is currently serving a life sentence in Colorado for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Authorities say the Sinaloa cartel was the largest supplier of drugs to the US.
Coronel Aispuro appeared in court wearing a green jumpsuit and a white face mask to enter her plea before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras.
She pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs, conspiracy to launder money and engage in financial dealings with the Sinaloa drug cartel.
Coronel Aispuro – who entered into a plea deal – also admitted to having played a role in her husband’s escape from prison in 2015.
A striking moment
Her voice was soft but clear in the courtroom. Throughout the hour-long procedure, she spoke in Spanish and her words were translated into English by an interpreter (I listened to her speak from outside the courthouse, on a conference call conference call).
It was a striking moment: I had met Coronel, one of the most powerful women in the drug trade, in New York and saw her smile at photographers as they flocked to her outside the courthouse where her husband was on trial.
She has now confessed her own guilt as a cartel participant and then the judge made it official.
“I find you guilty as you are accused,” he told her.
Minutes later, the phone line to the courtroom was cut, marking the end of an era for her and those who have followed her life in the world of drug trafficking.
Guzmán’s 2019 trial heard shocking revelations about his life, from drugging and raping girls as young as 13 to carrying out the cold-blooded murders of former cartel members and rivals.
Coronel Aispuro, a former beauty queen, was arrested in February at Dulles International Airport in Washington DC and charged with conspiracy to distribute 5kg or more of cocaine, 1kg or more of heroin, 500g or more of methamphetamine and 1,000kg or more of cannabis, as well as complicity.
Prosecutors accused her of aiding Guzmán in drug trafficking between 2012 and 2014 by relaying messages and then continuing to deliver messages while visiting him in a Mexican prison after his arrest in February 2014.
Guzmán was shot from the high-security Altiplano prison in Mexico via an elaborate tunnel escape. His sons bought a property near the prison and smuggled in a GPS watch, which helped the diggers know its exact location. Guzmán escaped by riding a specially modified small motorcycle through the tunnel.
Court documents show that Coronel Aispuro was allegedly involved in planning another jailbreak for her husband before he was extradited to the US in January 2017.
Who is Emma Coronel Aispuro?
Coronel Aispuro is a double American citizen, former beauty pageant winner, journalism student and mother of twins to Guzmán. According to previous interviews with US media, she first met him at a dance when she was 17 and he was 49.
She attended her husband’s three-month trial in New York almost every day, during which she not only heard grim stories of murder and rape, but also claimed that he had been spying on her and other mistresses.
During that process, she came into the media.
In one instance, she seemed to laugh during the tearful testimony of one of Guzmán’s mistresses. On another day, she and Guzmán wore similar velvet jackets, which many people interpreted as a show of solidarity.
She continued to support Guzmán throughout, saying at the end of the trial, “I don’t know my husband as the person they’re trying to make him see, but rather I admire him as the person I met, and the one I married.”
Guzmán came from a poor family in the state of Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico. His organized crime activities grew to such an extent that he made it onto the 2009 Forbes list of the world’s richest men at number 701, with an estimated worth of $1 billion (£709 million).
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