WASHINGTON – The wife of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Emma Coronel Aispuro, pleaded guilty in a US federal court on Thursday to helping her husband run the Sinaloa cartel, which could lead to more than ten years imprisonment.
Coronel, dressed in a green jumpsuit and wearing a white face mask, appeared before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington, DC, pleading guilty to three counts of conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs, conspiracy to launder money and to financial affairs with the Sinaloa drug cartel.
As part of her plea agreement, she also admitted that she had a conspiracy to help her husband escape from Altiplano, a Mexican prison with maximum security, in 2015.
Without showing clear emotions and covering her face with a mask, Coronel said she understands the charges and the consequences of pleading guilty.
“Everything is clear,” she told the judge.
Coronel could face life in prison for drug trafficking charges. The other two charges against her carry a maximum sentence of 20 years and 10 years respectively.
Under U.S. sentencing guidelines, however, she could look at a range of nine years to a little more than 11 years in prison, assuming she accepts responsibility for her actions under her plea agreement.
The 31-year-old former beauty queen was arrested in February on allegations that she conveyed messages to help Guzman sell drugs from 2012 to early 2014, and continued to deliver messages while visiting him in a Mexican prison after being arrested in February 2014.
Coronel was born in California and has both U.S. and Mexican citizenship.
Guzman, 64, was convicted in February 2019 in a high-profile trial in Brooklyn over mastering a multimillion-dollar drug deal for the Sinaloa cartel.
He was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years and imprisoned in the federal Supermax Prison in Florence, Colorado.
As part of her plea agreement, Coronel admitted that she acted as an intermediary with the cartel while Guzman was in the Altiplano prison in Mexico and gave messages back and forth.
In this role, he told her he wanted to escape through an underground tunnel and asked her to arrange these plans with his sons and other cartel members.
She later met someone known as ‘Cleto’, who provided her with more than $ 1 million in cash, some of which were paid off by prison officials.
Coronel also met a second person named Lazaro and she paid him to buy land near the prison where a tunnel could be built.
She kept her husband informed of all developments while the tunnel was being built, and gave her husband a GPS watch which he used to guide the people building the tunnel out of his cell.
As a condition of her plea Thursday, Coronel’s assets will be forfeited, and she will have to be subject to any law enforcement interview “regarding all assets in her possession”, the agreement reads, adding that she “must cooperate fully to obtain any financial information and documentation. ”
The judge set a preliminary sentencing date on September 15.