Said to have helped plan her husband’s intricate escape from a high-security Mexican prison, Emma Coronel Aispuro is accused of deep involvement in the inner workings of Mexico’s most notorious cartel.
WASHINGTON (CN) — The wife of imprisoned drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera appeared before a U.S. judge Tuesday afternoon after her arrest at Dulles International Airport.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, will remain in detention until her defense proposes a bail package at a later court date, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin M. Merriweather ordered at the hearing Tuesday afternoon, which was translated into Spanish for Coronel.
A dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, Coronel had been a regular attendee when Guzmán went on trial in New York for three months beginning in 2018.
The U.S. extradited Guzman after two notorious escapes from high-security Mexican prisons. It is said Guzmán accomplished his first escape in 2001 by way of a laundry cart. This was five years before he married Coronel; the former beauty queen was just 17 and he was 49. Today the notorious leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel is serving life in prison plus 30 years.
The newly unsealed charges against Coronel, who was arrested Monday at the Washington-area airport, say she coordinated Guzman’s 2015 escape via an underground tunnel that led to a shower in his cell at Mexico’s high-security Altiplano prison.
Special Agent Eric McGuire explains in an affidavit dated Feb. 17 that Coronel organized the jailbreak with help from two of Guzmán’s sons and a high-ranking cartel associate who will testify for prosecutors. After buying a plot of land near the prison, firearms and an armored truck, according to the affidavit, Coronel smuggled Guzman a GPS watch so they could “pinpoint his exact whereabouts” to lay out the mile-long tunnel, which included ventilation ducts, stairs and a motorbike on rails.
Guzman was arrested again the next year, and McGuire says Coronel tried to have her husband brought back to Altiplano so they could free him again before his extradition to the U.S.
In 2016, Coronel allegedly arranged again to buy more land near the Altiplano prison, ultimately paying $1 million to the cartel associate identified in court papers as Cooperating Witness 1.
When Guzmán was transferred to a facility in Ciudad Juárez, Coronel paid Mexico’s top prison official $2 million to facilitate the Altiplano transfer that never came to be.
Coronel continued showing loyalty to Guzman throughout his imprisonment, lobbying the Mexican government to improve his prison conditions and launching a clothing line in his name after he was convicted in 2019. Together, they have twin daughters.
Prosecutors say Coronel also relayed messages from the cartel to Guzman that enabled him make drug shipments from behind bars. She was “aware” of the Sinaloa cartel’s massive shipments of drugs and “understood the drug proceeds she controlled” were “derived from these shipments,” according to McGuire’s affidavit.
The Sinaloa cartel, which Guzman still heavily controlled from prison, smuggled more cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana from South America to the United States than any other drug trafficker in history.
During his powerful 25-year reign of the multibillion-dollar enterprise, Guzmán directed an army of hit men who murdered thousands.
McGuire’s affidavit explains that Coronel grew up in the drug trade. Both her father and brother, Ines Coronel Barreras and Ines Omar Coronel Aispuro, are serving 10-year sentences for their involvement in the cartel.
Coronel is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in the United States. If convicted, Coronel could face 10 years to life in prison, plus a fine up to $10 million.