The wife of convicted drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was arrested in the United States on Monday on charges related to international drug trafficking and conspiring to aid her husband’s 2015 jailbreak.
The United States Department of Justice said that Emma Coronel Aispuro, mother of twin daughters to the former Sinaloa Cartel leader, was arrested at the Dulles International Airport in Virginia and that she will appear in federal court on Tuesday via video conference.
Coronel, a 31-year-old dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, is charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the United States, according to court documents.
She is also alleged to have helped plan Guzmán’s escape from the Altiplano maximum security prison in México state in 2015. In addition, Coronel is accused of planning another prison escape after Guzmán was captured in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, in early 2016.
According to an affidavit written by United States Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Eric S. McGuire, Coronel was immersed in the drug trafficking world from a young age.
Her father and brother, both of whom are in prison for marijuana trafficking, were members of the Sinaloa Cartel.
“Coronel grew up with knowledge of the narcotics trafficking industry, and married Guzmán when she was a teenager. Based upon my investigation, I know Coronel understood the scope of the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug trafficking. Coronel knows and understands the Sinaloa Cartel is the most prolific cartel in Mexico,” the affidavit said.
McGuire, who has extensively investigated the cartel, said “Coronel was aware of multi-ton cocaine shipments, multi-kilo heroin production, multi-ton marijuana shipments, and ton quantity methamphetamine shipments,” adding that she “understood the drug proceeds she controlled during her marriage to Guzmán were derived from these shipments.”
The affidavit also said that from 2012 to 2014 “Coronel relayed messages on behalf of Guzmán in furtherance of drug trafficking activities while Guzmán attempted to avoid capture by Mexican authorities,” adding that “once Guzmán was arrested in February 2014, Coronel continued to deliver messages she received from Guzmán during her prison visits.”
Mcguire said he had reviewed a letter from Guzmán to Coronel, which allegedly serves as evidence of the latter’s involvement in drug trafficking.
“Regarding Cleto, increase the production so that it yields. Say hi to Cleto. Tell him to please give me a hand, so that the first sale will be my part … because I have a lot of expenses here,” read a pertinent part of the letter, according to the affidavit.
Guzmán likely wrote the letter, which McGuire said had been authenticated by multiple witnesses, while in the Altiplano prison between 2014 and 2015. The expenses to which he referred were bribes he paid to prison staff and support for his family, the affidavit said.
Cleto is a drug trafficker in Durango who produces heroin, McGuire said, explaining that he had established that fact via his investigation.
“I know from cooperating witness 1 as well as other sources that Cleto produced heroin for Guzmán. …. I know from my investigation that Cleto and cooperating witness 1 provided Coronel drug proceeds from more than 5 kilograms of heroin,” the affidavit said.
Cooperating witness 1 was not identified but it is possible that the person is Dámaso López, a former Sinaloa Cartel boss who testified against Guzmán at his 2018-2019 trial and said that Coronel knew of El Chapo’s plan to escape from the Altiplano prison.
According to the affidavit, Coronel visited Guzmán at the prison on multiple occasions after his arrest in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, in February 2014.
“According to cooperating witness 1, he/she received communications from Coronel on behalf of Guzmán while Guzmán was detained in Altiplano prison in 2014 and 2015. Furthermore, cooperating witness 1 told me Coronel agreed to help facilitate Guzmán to escape from Altiplano via an underground tunnel,” the affidavit said.
Four of Guzmán’s son’s along with Coronel and witness 1 “agreed to organize the construction of an underground tunnel linked to Altiplano in order to facilitate Guzmán’s escape from prison,” it said.
“I … know that while he was a fugitive, he continued to lead the Sinaloa Cartel with [Ismael “El Mayo”] Zambada,” McGuire said.
The special agent said that according to witness 1, he/she met with Coronel approximately one month after Guzmán’s January 2016 arrest.
“Coronel told cooperating witness 1 that Guzmán again wanted to escape and wanted to know whether [the witness] again would assist in the escape. Cooperating witness 1 agreed,” the affidavit said.
Coronel allegedly gave the witness approximately US $1 million to aid the escape plan, including money to purchase property in the vicinity of the Altiplano prison.
However, El Chapo was transferred to a prison in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, scuttling the escape plan. According to the affidavit, Coronel subsequently told witness 1 that approximately US $2 million had been paid to an official who oversaw the Mexican prison system to facilitate Guzmán’s transfer back to Altiplano.
But the transfer never went ahead and El Chapo was extradited to the United States in January 2017. He was found guilty of trafficking in February 2019 after a three-month trial and sentenced to life in prison in July of the same year.
Coronel, a Culiacán resident who was born in California in 1989, attended almost every day of her husband’s trial and said that the evidence presented – including tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, high living and a massive drug-smuggling operation – did nothing to change her opinion of him.
“Everything that has been said in court about Joaquín, the good and the bad, has done nothing to change how I think about him after years of knowing him,” she said in an Instagram post in January 2019.
“I don’t know my husband as the person they are trying to show him as,” Coronel told the New York Times in an interview. “But rather I admire him as the human being that I met, and the one I married.”