The wife of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the imprisoned former head of the Mexican drug cartel in Sinaloa, has been arrested for her alleged involvement in international drug trafficking, the US Department of Justice said.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, who regularly attended her husband’s trial two years ago, was arrested Monday at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia and is scheduled to appear by video conference in Washington federal court on Tuesday. .
A Coronel lawyer could not be identified immediately. It was unclear why Coronel, a dual Mexican-American citizen, was in the Washington, DC area.
Coronel’s arrest came two years after a trial in Brooklyn where Guzman, now 63, was convicted of smuggling tons of drugs into the United States as the head of Sinaloa. Prosecutors at trial said Guzman had accumulated power through murders and wars with rival cartels.
He was sentenced in July 2019 to life in prison over 30 years, which the sentencing judge said reflected Guzman’s “extremely evil” actions. Guzman was sent to ADX Florence in Colorado, the safest prison in the United States.
Coronel was charged Monday with conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine, cannabis and methamphetamines for illegal importation into the United States.
Prosecutors allege Coronel also conspired to aid her husband during his July 2015 escape from the Altiplano prison in Mexico, when he dug a mile-long tunnel from his cell and began planning. a second escape after his capture by Mexican authorities in January 2016.
According to the complaint, up to $ 2 million was paid to an anonymous Mexican official, who oversaw the country’s prisons, to facilitate Guzman’s second escape attempt.
Efforts by the United States and Mexico to tackle drug trafficking became strained in October when the United States Department of Justice brought drug charges against former Mexican Minister of Defense Salvador Cienfuegos.
The Justice Department unexpectedly dropped that case the following month and let Cienfuegos return to Mexico, a move Mexico said would help restore confidence.
Cienfuegos was exonerated two months later when Mexico dropped its own case.
Tomas Guevara, an investigator on security issues at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, said Coronel’s arrest could be part of a “push strategy” to prompt Guzman’s cooperation.
A Mexican official familiar with Coronel’s case, who asked not to be identified, said his arrest appeared to be solely a US initiative and Coronel was not wanted in Mexico.
Coronel and Guzman have been married since 2007, when they tied the knot in a conspicuous ceremony in a village in Durango state. At the time, Coronel was an 18-year-old beauty queen.
Coronel has also been identified by US authorities as the daughter of Ines Coronel Barreras, “a major foreign drug trafficker” and a prominent member of the Sinaloa cartel.
Coronel was barred from contact with Guzman for more than two years in pre-trial detention.
But during the trial, each day entering and leaving the courtroom, Guzman touched his heart and gave his wife a kiss.
There were suggestions that she was involved in her business and her escape from prison, but the authorities let her come and go freely.
“I can only say that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m not perfect, but I consider myself a good human being who never intentionally hurt anyone, ”she said at the end of the trial.
Months later, Coronel appeared in the VH1 Cartel Crew reality TV series, about the lives of people seeking to break away from families involved in drug trafficking.
In an episode filmed aboard a luxury yacht near Miami, Coronel told Michael Blanco, the son of Colombian cocaine queen Griselda Blanco, that she wanted to lead a normal life and was considering starting a clothes on behalf of her husband.
“Sometimes you just want to do what other people are doing,” she said, sipping champagne.