Woman With ‘El Chapo’ Ties Ordered Held Without Bail

FILE – In this Feb. 22, 2014, file photo, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican navy marines at a navy hanger in Mexico City. Mexico’s government extradited Guzman on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, to the U.S. to face drug-trafficking and other charges. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)

SAN DIEGO (CN) – A former Mexican congresswoman with alleged ties to drug cartel leader Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman was ordered held without bail Thursday by a San Diego federal court judge after a prosecutor said she tried to escape back to Mexico following her arrest.

Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez was arrested June 21 at the Otay Mesa Cross Border Xpress port of entry, a pedestrian sky bridge that connects the Tijuana airport to the south San Diego community of Otay Mesa.

She faces one charge for conspiracy to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. The nine-page indictment charging her claims agents in Nogales, Arizona, intercepted messages about money-laundering and transporting drugs reportedly sent by Sanchez starting in Jan. 2013.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Mellor told U.S. District Magistrate Judge Barbara Major at a detention hearing Thursday that Sanchez tried to run back to Mexico June 21 after she’d been arrested and processed by immigration authorities. The former legislator was not handcuffed when she tried to flee, did not listen to commands to stop, and was tackled and restrained by more than one officer, Mellor said, adding that, “no conditions will reasonably secure her appearance in court.”

Sanchez’s court-appointed federal defender Joshua Jones requested the court implement a $50,000 bond for her release. Jones said the charge Sanchez faces stems from conduct that occurred years ago – in 2014 – and that she was unaware her visa had been canceled prior to her attempted entry into the U.S. last week.

She faces up to life in prison with a mandatory minimum 10-year-sentence, if convicted.

While Sanchez also faces criminal charges in Mexico for using a fake ID to visit Guzman in a federal prison last year before he escaped, Jones pointed out she has not been convicted of any crimes in Mexico, was out on bail and had complied with all conditions of her release, including attending court hearings as recently as March 2017.

Sanchez is married to a veterinarian in Sinaloa, Mexico, and has three children, Jones said.

Major ordered Sanchez held without bail, saying she was “very concerned” about the allegation she attempted to run back to Mexico after facing arrest and that her suspected use of false identification was also troubling if she were to be released.

The judge put off until next month deciding if Sanchez should be appointed a federal defender for the reminder of her case.

Following the hearing, Mellor told reporters when Sanchez tried to enter the United States, she claimed to immigration authorities she was planning to go shopping in Glenwood, California, which is a ghost town located in Santa Cruz County.

She had already been arrested, fingerprinted and processed when she tried to escape back into Mexico, Mellor said.

Jones did not comment.

An arraignment hearing is scheduled for July 20.

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