Former beauty queen faces lengthy prison time for helping her husband run Mexico’s violent Sinaloa drug cartel.
The wife of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has pleaded guilty in federal court to helping her husband run the Sinaloa cartel of smugglers.
Clad in a green prison jumpsuit and wearing a white face mask, Emma Coronel Aispuro appeared in United States District Court in Washington, DC, on Thursday.
She 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 admitted to helping her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015.
Coronel faces a potential life sentence for the drug distribution charge. The other two counts against her carry maximum prison terms of 20 years and 10 years.
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.
US District Judge Rudolph Contreras set a tentative sentencing date of September 15.
The 31-year-old former beauty queen had been arrested in February at Dulles International Airport in Virginia on allegations that she had relayed messages to help Guzman traffic drugs from 2012 to early 2014.
Coronel continued delivering messages while visiting him in a Mexican prison following his February 2014 arrest.
As Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Guzman ran a cartel responsible for smuggling cocaine and other drugs into the US during his 25-year reign, US prosecutors said.
Guzman’s “army of sicarios”, or “hitmen”, was under orders to kidnap, torture and kill anyone who got in his way.
The Sinaloa cartel smuggled more than 450,000kg of cocaine, 90,000kg of heroin, 45,000kg of methamphetamine and about 90,000kg of cannabis into the US, prosecutors said.
Coronel was born in California and holds both US and Mexican citizenship.
Guzman, 64, was recaptured after escaping from prison and extradited to the US where he was convicted in 2019 on charges of masterminding the Sinaloa cartel’s multibillion-dollar drug enterprise.
Guzman was sentenced by a federal court in New York to life in prison plus 30 years, and is now locked up in a maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado.