U.S. Arrests El Chapo's wife, charging her with helping to run husband
Emma Coronel Aispuro, who had been under investigation for at least two years, was also accused of conspiring to expel her husband, Mexico's most prominent drug lord, from jail.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of the most prominent drug trafficker in Mexico, better known as El Chapo, was arrested on Monday and charged with helping her husband run his multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise and conspiring to break him out of jail after he was arrested in 2014.
Ms. Coronel, a former beauty queen, had been under investigation by U.S. federal authorities for at least two years for being an accomplice to her partner, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, who was accused of masterminding a major drug ring at a trial in Brooklyn in 2019 and was eventually sentenced to life in prison.
Court papers filed in the case of Ms. Coronel said she sent Mr. Guzmán messages that helped him make drug shipments from 2012 to 2014 and escape arrest by the legions of U.S. and Mexican authorities that had been chasing him for years. At Mr. Guzmán's trial, evidence emerged that Ms. Coronel was also a chief conspirator in an elaborate scheme to break him out of Mexico's Altiplano prison by digging a nearly mile-long tunnel through his cell's bathroom.
Ms. Coronel, 31, is a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen with roots in both Southern California and Mexico's Sinaloa State town of Culiacán, which has long acted as the center of operations for the Sinaloa cartel, Mr. Guzmán's drug organization. At Dulles International Airport, near Washington, she was taken into custody and is expected to make an initial appearance in the US on Tuesday. District of Columbia District Court. Her lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, who was also Mr. Guzmán's agent, refused to comment on the detention.
Although it is rare for law enforcement agents to go after the spouses of drug-world leaders, prosecutors at the trial of Mr. Guzmán gave substantial proof that Ms. Coronel was deeply involved in the illegal industry of her husband, unlike other wives of narco-traffickers.
They implemented BlackBerry messages that made clear that, even with her own father, she had helped Mr. Guzmán perform his operations. Other messages revealed that after a failed raid in 2012 in the Mexican resort town of Cabo San Lucas, she was closely involved not only in Mr. Guzmán's famous 2015 tunnel escape from Altiplano, but also in helping him evade capture by American and Mexican authorities.
At Mr. Guzmán's trial, his former chief of staff, Dámaso López Núñez, told the jury that after he was recaptured in 2016 and returned to Altiplano, Ms. Coronel had tried to help her husband escape again. According to Mr. López's testimony, Ms. Coronel hatched a scheme to bribe Mexico's highest prison official, but Mr. Guzmán was extradited to the United States to face trial before the plan could be enforced.
Ms. Coronel, who is the third or maybe fourth wife of Mr. Guzmán and the mother of two of his many children, grew up in the drug industry. Court documents point out that her father, Inés Coronel Barreras, who was taken into custody in Mexico in 2013, was one of the top lieutenants of Mr. Guzmán.
Prosecutors have filed charges against many members of the nuclear family of Mr. Guzmán. For years in the United States, his two oldest sons, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar and Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar, who remain at large in Mexico, have been on trial. Just days after their father's arrest, two of his younger sons, Joaquín Guzmán López and Ovidio Guzmán López, were charged in Washington and remain fugitives as well.
The F.B.I. said that in about 2007, Ms. Coronel married Mr. Guzmán. The wedding took place when Ms. Coronel was 17 and Mr. Guzmán was more than twice her age, in the rugged mountain country outside Culiacán.
During Mr. Guzmán's trial, Ms. Coronel stood up for her husband in an interview with The New York Times, claiming that she did not regard him as the drug lord prosecutors had described him as. "She said, "I respect him as the human being I met, and the one I married."
During the three-month trial, she was a frequent figure in the courtroom in New York, always turning up in the newest designer fashions. In spite of his serial philandering, Ms. Coronel arranged one of the most dramatic non-legal moments of the trial, sending a fax to one of the mistresses of Mr. Guzmán, Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, who appeared as a witness one day.
Ms. Coronel arranged for her husband to come to court the next day, wearing a burgundy velvet smoking jacket, similar to the one she was wearing, after Ms. Sánchez López declared her love for Mr. Guzmán from the stand. It was a signal that Ms. Coronel was the wife of Mr. Guzmán, and that Ms. Sánchez López was merely the other woman, in her blue prison uniform.
It remained unknown on Monday night why, more than two years ago, federal authorities arrested Ms. Coronel after implicating her in her husband's crime.