The wife of ex-Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera has been arrested in the United States and now faces a slew of federal drug conspiracy charges, similar to the ones that landed her husband in prison for life.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen, was detained Monday afternoon at an airport in Virginia, the Justice Department said. According to charging documents, Coronel was “aware” of multi-ton shipments of cocaine, heroin, meth, and marijuana coordinated by El Chapo and his cartel, and “understood the drug proceeds she controlled during her marriage to Guzmán were derived from these shipments.”
Coronel is also accused of helping coordinate El Chapo’s infamous 2015 escape from Mexico’s maximum-security Altiplano prison, where the kingpin slipped out of his cell through a mile-long tunnel. Coronel allegedly worked with El Chapo’s four adult sons, Iván, Ovidio, Joaquín, and Alfredo—who have since taken over their father’s faction of the Sinaloa cartel.
Coronel is a dual-citizen of the U.S. and Mexico with twin daughters fathered by El Chapo, according to court records. El Chapo is more than 30 years her senior, and the couple married when she was still a teenager. She was a fixture at the drug lord's trial in Brooklyn, which ended with his conviction in February 2019. The couple once wore matching red velvet blazers to court, and would routinely stare at each other and blow kisses throughout the proceedings.
Chapo’s lead trial attorney, Jeff Lichtman, said he will represent Coronel along with Mariel Colon Miro, another member of the trial team. Lichtman declined to comment on the charges against Coronel, or say whether El Chapo—who is housed in the federal “supermax” prison ADX in Colorado—has been notified of his wife’s arrest.
One federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Coronel wasn’t known as a major drug trafficker, but she played an important role as a messenger and facilitator for the Sinaloa Cartel, helping to lure corrupt officials.
“She was involved in the bribery,” the official said. “She would be the one going to facilitate payments. She was neck deep in that. She had a clean image. The politicians were able to hobnob with her.”
Even if Coronel wasn’t personally planning or coordinating drug shipments, the official said, she faces drug conspiracy charges because her activities helped the cartel do business.
“By getting him out of jail, you help his drug organization, you helped him peddle all the drugs he peddled when he got out of jail,” the official said.
Coronel is scheduled to make her initial court appearance tomorrow in Washington, D.C.