The wife of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman has been arrested at Washington DC’s Dulles Airport and charged with drug trafficking, with an informant accusing her of masterminding a $3 million plan to break him out of Mexico’s jails before he was extradited to the US in 2017.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen with both U.S. and Mexican citizenship, was detained on Monday at Dulles Airport in Virginia.
It’s unclear where she had flown in from, or how it came about. The Department of Justice has not confirmed when or how she agreed to turn herself in.
At a virtual court appearance on Tuesday, her attorneys said they were not immediately seeking bail. The hearing was delayed because an interpreter hadn’t been called.
Aispuro is facing a minimum of 10 years in prison but a maximum of life and up to $10million.
She has been charged with one count criminal complaint with a conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, five kilograms or more of cocaine, 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and 500 grams or more of methamphetamines for unlawful importation into the U.S.
According to prosecutors, she helped run her husband’s drug empire between 2014 and 2017, and she also participated in two plots to spring him from prison – one in 2015 – which was successful – and another in 2016, while he was awaiting extradition to the US, which was not.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen, was arrested in Virginia on Monday. It’s unclear what the circumstances of her arrest were – if she turned herself in or not
At a virtual court appearance on Tuesday, Aispuro’s attorneys said they were not immediately seeking bail. Aispuro is pictured in a court sketch of the virtual proceedings along with her lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman (top left) and U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather (top right)
Emma Coronel Aispuro (C) departs United States Federal Court after the first day of jury deliberations in the case against her husband Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 04 February 2019
Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman (center) came up through the ranks of the defunct Guadalajara Cartel before going on his own and co-founding the Sinaloa Cartel
During her first appearance, prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi said: ‘This defendant worked closely with the command and control center of the Sinaloa Cartel.
‘Most notably, with her husband, Joaquin Guzman, the leader of the cartel, prior to his extradition and subsequent conviction int he United States.
As the complaint reads, this defendant is charged with knowingly distributing large amounts of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and meth. Knowing and intending that these substances would end up in the US.
Her actions, which notably included her participation in her husband’s escape in 2015 and her efforts to again help Guzman escape from custody prior to his January 2017 extradition, aided and abetted the objective of the cartel.
Additionally, the defendant has access to criminal who are members of the Sinaloa cartel and means to flee.
‘Further she has no direct ties to the Washington DC area. For those reasons, the government believes that pre-trial detention is justified.’
Aispuro’s attorneys agreed to a temporary stay of detention. She thanked her interpreter at the end of the hearing.
They have not yet set the next trial date.
While she is undoubtedly a high profile arrest for the authorities, she is far from being a major player in her own right.
Many suspect that prosecutors will lean heavily on her to ‘flip’ – something which, for someone so embedded in trafficking culture, may not come easy.
The U.S. government’s case is helped by an informant, named only as ‘Cooperating Witness 1,’ who testified that they were given $100,000 by Coronel to help his escape from prison when he was recaptured in 2016, and $1 million in total.
The informant also claims that Coronel oversaw a plan by which a further $2 million was sent to bribe Mexico’s head of prisons to send Guzman from a prison in Ciudad Juarez back to Altiplano, where he would once again be busted out of jail.
According to the indictment, Coronel ‘stated to Cooperating Witness 1 that approximately $2 million had been paid to the Mexican official who oversaw the Mexican prisons to facilitate the transfer.’
Mike Vigil, a former DEA agent who worked undercover in Mexico, told DailyMail.com that Coronel was ‘a narco princess’ deeply enmeshed in the world of trafficking.
After Guzman was re-arrested in Mexico in January 2016, Coronel is alleged to have engaged in planning the additional jail break, before he was eventually extradited to the U.S. in January 2017.
‘She was not a distributor, or a money launderer, or involved in logistics,’ said Vigil.
‘But she did things he ordered he to, like passing messages.’
Vigil pointed out that all her alleged involvement took place prior to his extradition to the United States – authorities in the U.S. were well aware of her role, and so have prevented her continued help of him while behind bars.
She is not believed to have been allowed to see him inside the Colorado prison.
Vigil said that her current focus was on their daughters, and spending his money, noting: ‘She’s not involved any more.’
He added: ‘So did she participate? Yes.
‘But these charges are related to things that she did in the past. It’s not like she’s branching out on her own.’
Coronel is charged in a one count criminal complaint with a conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin; five kilograms or more of cocaine; 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana; and 500 grams or more of methamphetamines for unlawful importation into the U.S.
Guzman’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, told DailyMail.com he is representing Coronel.
Guzman and his wife are pictured in a courtroom sketch from January 31, 2019
For Coronel, born in California, trafficking was a family affair.
Her father Ines Coronel Barreras was a mid-ranking lieutenant in the Sinaloa Cartel, as was her brother, Omar.
FBI intercepts of Guzman’s phone showed him discussing business in 2011 with Ines – the father-in-law groveling to the man he repeatedly refers to as ‘senor’.
‘Make sure you delete everything every time we’re done chatting,’ Guzman reminds his wife, when she takes the phone back.
Ines and Omar were both arrested in April 2013.
Coronel married Guzman in 2007 in La Angostura, Durango, and gave birth to their twin girls on August 15, 2011.
The girls, Emali and Maria Joaquina, were born at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, California – on their birth certificates, the father’s name was left blank.
Coronel is pictured with Emali and Maria Joaquina, born in 2011, in February 2018 in New York
Coronel is pictured with members of her father’s legal team on January 17, 2019, in Brooklyn
The wiretaps showed how intricately Coronel was involved in her husband’s business, with the pair discussing by text the price per kilo of drugs and liaising about impending police raids on their properties.
‘Our Kiki is fearless,’ Coronel writes, in January 2012, with reference to Maria Joaquina.
‘I’m going to give her an AK-47 so she can hang with me.’
On January 24, 2012, he tells her: ‘Love, whenever you guys see suspicious-looking cars let me know right away so I can get them checked out, love.’
She says that the security team saw some strange vehicles, but ‘they were told they were from the government’.
He replies: ‘I am told that they are following you, darling. You just go ahead and lead a normal life, that’s it. They just want to see if you are coming to where I am.’
A week or so later, she says that she’s been told her home will soon be raided.
‘Let me check and see what’s going on,’ he replied. ‘Do you have a gun?’
She replies that she has one he gave her.
Shortly after, he responds: ‘They are doing a thorough check for me.’
She remarks: ‘I hope it won’t be today. I have a headache.’
During his trial, Coronel was a constant presence – the drug lord waving goofily at her across the courtroom, and blowing kisses.
She sat through hours of testimony from his former mistresses, and from former associates who turned against him.
Coronel herself treated the trial as a fashion parade, turning up every day in a striking new outfit. She announced afterwards that she was launching a fashion collection.
In November 2019 Coronel was in talks to join the VH1 reality series Cartel Crew.
TMZ obtained photos of her on a yacht, as another cast member – Michael Corleone Blanco, son of Colombian drug dealer Griselda Blanco – pulled up alongside her boat.
The series ended in December 2019, however, and it does not appear that she filmed any scenes beyond the yacht one.
Coronel is accused in the court documents of having been in contact with Guzman’s sons, known as ‘Chapitos’, who are currently believed to be running the Sinaloa Cartel.
Four of Guzman’s 15 known sons – Ivan, Jesus, Ovidio and Joaquin Jr – are all referenced in the charging documents.
Ovidio was captured in October 2019 in Culiacan, a stronghold of the Sinaloa Cartel. He was then released amid a full-scale shootout with cartel members in broad daylight that left cars burning and civilians running for cover, in a case which sparked huge controversy for Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Vigil, the former chief of international operations for the DEA, who spent 20 years infiltrating Mexican and Colombian cartels, told DailyMail.com that investigators would now be trying to use Coronel to entrap other, bigger, fish.
Coronel, said Vigil, will be pressed as to the whereabouts of the sons and of Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada, the 73-year-old who was Guzman’s right-hand-man.
‘They have cooperating witnesses who claim that she was liaising with the sons,’ he said.
‘And they know that she is very devoted to her daughters, so she won’t want to be separated from them.
‘They’ll be really pressuring her to flip.’
Others were intrigued by the timing of Coronel’s arrest, relating to activity that, according to the charge sheet, stopped in 2017.
Several pointed out that her high-profile detention came only months after the debacle of the arrest of Mexico’s former defense minister, General Salvador Cienfuegos.
Cienfuegos, who served under former president Enrique Pena Nieto, was accused by the U.S. authorities of taking bribes in exchange for protecting drug cartel leaders.
He was arrested at the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles in October.
However, a month later the Justice Department agreed to hand him back to Mexico, in a move that stunned many within the State Department and internationally.
Mexico promised to try him in Mexico, with Marcelo Ebrard, the foreign minister, saying ‘it would be very costly’ for Mexico to ‘do nothing’ after having asked for the charges against the former defense chief to be dropped and for him to be returned home.
‘It would be almost suicidal,’ Ebrard said.
Yet in January Mexico declared that Cienfuegos had been exonerated and would face no further charges.
Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico’s ambassador to the US from 2007-13, tweeted that Coronel’s arrest was ‘likely related to a tightening of screws in the aftermath of the Cienfuegos debacle.’
The glamorous life of El Chapo’s beauty queen wife who grew up the daughter of narcos then married Mexico’s most famous drug king pin
Coronel, 31, married young into infamy and had a front-row seat to Guzman’s high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with Mexican and U.S. agents hunting him down.
A U.S.-Mexican dual national, Coronel was arrested on Monday at Dulles International Airport and is due to appear in a U.S. District of Columbia court on Tuesday charged with distributing cocaine, heroin and other drugs.
Coronel caught the attention of Guzman, who is more than three decades her senior, when she was a teenaged beauty queen.
They married after she turned 18 in 2007 and had twin daughters, spending their entire married life with Guzman either in jail or on the run as the leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel. Guzman is serving a life sentence in a U.S. jail.
Coronel’s fame soared during Guzman’s 2019 trial in New York, where she became a media sensation with her designer outfits and the loyalty she showed her husband – even as prosecutors detailed how he kept a string of lovers.
Coronel was a teenage beauty queen when she met Guzman, who was her father’s boss
She even became a key character in the court drama when a former lieutenant of Guzman’s alleged Coronel played a pivotal role in her husband’s Hollywood-style escape from prison in a mile-long tunnel burrowed under his jail cell’s shower in 2015
Piggybacking on her husband’s fame and seeking to cash-in on her celebrity outside Mexico, Coronel launched a clothing brand in the United States in 2019 and even appeared in a U.S. reality show about mafia families.
‘I consider myself a normal woman,’ Coronel said in VH1’s Cartel Crew show, speaking aboard a yacht.
‘It’s sad that they judge us without knowing us. It’s hard.’
In media interviews, Coronel emphasised her enduring loyalty to Guzman and her focus on bringing up their twin daughters.
‘Emma is like the old narco families in Sinaloa,’ a former acquaintance told Reuters.
She has recently appeared in an episode of the VH1 show Cartel Crew where she socialized with the show’s stars and told of plans to launch a clothing line in her jailed husband’s name, claiming it was something they had talked about ‘when he was free’
Coronel promoted the El Chapo clothing line on social media before she was arrested.
Steeped in the narco tradition from an early age, Coronel was raised in the mountains of Durango, part of Mexico’s ‘Golden Triangle’ of drug trafficking states that includes Sinaloa. Her father was jailed for trafficking drugs in 2017.
Coronel first hit the headlines in Mexico after her 2007 church wedding in rural Durango to Guzman, who at the time was on the run from authorities.
Coronel would be by Guzman’s side during several near-misses as Mexican police and U.S. agents tracked him.
At Guzman’s trial, his former right-hand man, Damaso Lopez Nuñez, testified how Coronel, along with Guzman’s sons, helped orchestrate the audacious 2015 prison escape.
They got a plot of land near the prison, arranged weapons, brought an armoured truck and even had a GPS wristwatch smuggled into Guzman’s cell so the tunnel engineers would have exact jail cell coordinates to help their digging, according to testimony.
At Guzman’s trial, whenever he entered the court, he would seek Coronel out and wave. They could not speak to each other but their glances caught the attention of the media.
‘It was like a love story in complete silence as she wasn’t allowed to say anything,’ said journalist Miguel Angel Vega of the Riodoce newspaper in Sinaloa who covered the trial.
‘It’s quite interesting to see what’s happening in this new case,’ Vega said. ‘It’s like a soap opera.’