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El Chapo’s wife sentenced to 3 years for helping run drug cartel

Emma Coronel Aispuro admitted to aiding in her husband’s dramatic escape from a Mexican prison and helping run his multibillion-dollar drug enterprise.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The wife of one of the most powerful known drug traffickers in the world, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, was sentenced to 36 months in prison on Tuesday for her involvement in the Sinaloa Cartel.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, 32, accepted a plea deal in June, pleading guilty to three counts - conspiring to distribute methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine and marijuana; engaging in financial transactions regarding narcotic distribution; and engaging in transactions and dealings in property designated to a narcotics trafficker. 

She was first arrested in February at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, where she has since been jailed without bond. 

Coronel also helped construct Guzman’s escape from Mexico’s Altiplano prison in 2015 by serving as his messenger, smuggling him a GPS watch disguised as a food item, and facilitating the construction of a mile-long tunnel over 30 feet underground from below the cell’s shower to an outside warehouse.

At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing in Washington federal court, U.S. Circuit Judge Rudolph Contreras said that Coronel had a total offense level of 25 under federal sentencing guidelines, which advises a punishment of almost 58 months in prison. 

However, the U.S. government requested a lesser sentence of 48 months, taking into consideration her guilty admittance and the time and resources saved as a result for the court. 

"While the overall effect of the defendant's conduct was significant, the defendant's actual role was a minimal one. The defendant acted primarily in support of her husband," federal prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi said.

Contreras also took into account the fact that Coronel had no prior criminal history and that she married Guzman on her 18th birthday when he was 47 and already involved in criminal activity.

“Her involvement could be judged by the lenses of how she entered it,” Coronel’s defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said during the hearing. "She met Joaquin Guzman when she was a minor.”

Lichtman added his client may never get to safely return to her home in Mexico after anonymous law enforcement sources told news media that she was cooperating with the government.

He also mentioned that Coronel is known to help others and has donated supplies to earthquake victims. He said she has been alone in a prison cell in a foreign country “where she doesn’t speak the language” and is “away from her children.”

“I am asking for forgiveness,” Coronel said in her address to the court.

“My daughters are the primary reason I am here today to accept the mistakes that I have made. I beg you to not allow them to grow up without the presence of their mother,” she added.

Recognizing her position as the sole guardian of her two 9-year-old twin daughters and the unlikeliness of her return to cartel activity with Guzman serving life in prison, Contreras decided on a lesser sentence of three years. 

“I hope you raise your twins in a different environment than you’ve experienced to date,” the judge said. “Good luck.”

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